Monday, September 27, 2010

Breakfast Ideas

I am a big breakfast person. I want my kids to have a healthy, filling (and typically hot) meal each and every morning. And cereal is rarely on the agenda. (Not that we never eat it; I just save it for Sunday dinner so I don't have to cook on my rest day ;) But the rub is I don't want to spend a lot of time each morning preparing breakfast. I like to get up early but I want to spend that time drinking a cup of coffee or hot tea and reading, not in long prep time for a meal.

I think breakfast is a dying animal though. As a sort of experiment, I asked 10 friends what they gave their kids for breakfast and of the 10 every single one said pop tarts, cereal, frozen waffles and/or oatmeal from a packet. Sorry, but ewwwww! Below are some things we cook at our home and how I prepare them to try and minimize cook time on busy mornings. If you have other great ideas please leave a comment or better yet link a post on your blog. I am always looking for new ideas so we don't get bored!

Breakfast burritos: whole wheat tortillas filled with scrambled eggs, cheese and sausage or bacon (we use the all natural sausage and bacon to avoid nitrates/nitrites). Potato would also be a yummy addition...or substitution for the meat if you want to go vegetarian.

How I make it work: Burritos are our standard Sunday breakfast because we are out of the house by 7:45 am. We can throw these in the microwave and eat 'em in the car! Once every six weeks I cook a big batch of crumbled sausage and freeze it in one cup servings. I also cook a package of bacon and freeze it as well. Then each Saturday night I make scrambled eggs and add the defrosted sausage or bacon. I make up the burritos and wrap each one individually in wax paper. The next morning we throw each one in the microwave for 30 seconds and breakfast is served. :) I usually make enough so that we have these on Monday morning as well. When we eat 'em at home we add salsa and a side of fresh fruit. Yum!

Golden Pancakes/Egg Crepes: these are officially called golden pancakes (see the recipe in an old post) but the first time I made these Thatcher declared that he would call them Egg Crepes. ;) Of everything on our breakfast rotation these are probably my boys all-time favorite - and I love that they are full of healthy protein! I roll them up and the boys eat them like crepes. Haddon loves his filled with almond butter and dips them in maple syrup. I like mine with jam. Thatcher prefers his plain, and Beckett is just a syrup guy!

How I make it work: I make the batter the night before. It just takes a few minutes to throw all the ingredients in the blender and then refrigerate. In the morning just heat the pan and make your pancakes.

Pumpkin Oat Pancakes: These are not just my favorite breakfast but one of my favorite foods. Period! They are the standard pancakes in our house and so much more tasty than plain ones. Your kids will never know that you found a great way to sneak in all that beta-carotene. ;) See the recipe here in an older post.

How I make it work: Every 4 to 6 weeks I make a double or even triple batch of these for a Saturday brunch or dinner. I freeze what is left in sets of four pancakes each with wax paper between each so they don't stick together. Then in the morning when I wake up I take a set out and let them defrost. I like to heat them up in a skillet on the stove rather than in the microwave because they crisp back up and taste like you just made them.

Yogurt Parfaits: We don't do too much dairy in our house. The boys drink almond milk but we do some cheese and a little yogurt. And these are a fun way to enjoy that yogurt. I just layer homemade granola (recipe below), organic greek yogurt and frozen blueberries in a fun clear glass cup. My boys love it and it's our standard "breakfast in a hurry" around here.


***This is a good basic recipe and I love it as is. But you can make lots of additions or substitutions to make it your own. Add a cup of dried fruit, change the amount/kind of nuts, add more/less sugar, delete cinnamon, etc....Also this will stay fresh kept on the counter in an airtight container for at least 2-3 weeks, although it rarely lasts that long around here!!!

4 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 - 2 cups chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed but any mild oil would be fine)
1/4 cup honey (generous 1/4 cup ;)
1 tsp vanilla (good mexican vanilla is my favorite)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a bowl mix oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

2. In a saucepan warm oil and honey. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

3. Pour liquid over oat mixture and stir gently with wooden spoon. Spread in a baking pan.

4. Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes.

5. When finished allow it to cool completely and store in airtight container.

* If you want to add fresh fruit add it after granola has cooled. Sometimes we add dried cranberries, especially in the fall!

Oatmeal: Simple, traditional, classic, healthy and yummy! I like steel cut oats better than rolled oats. Thatcher likes his with melted peanut butter drizzled all over the top. I like mine with tons of cinnamon and walnuts added. Dh likes his plain. Best of all, it just costs cents per serving.

How I make it work: Easy, I make it the night before and then stick the whole pan in the fridge. In the morning when I wake up I put the pan back on the stove to reheat (add a little more milk if needed) and we're ready to go. I make ours with almond milk and a little honey. Serve with a side of blueberries or other fresh fruit and breakfast heaven!!!

Egg Puffs: These are my mil's creation. One time she was staying with us and came up with these and the boys love them. You basically scramble up some eggs, pour the mixture into greased muffin tins, add some cheese and/or some breakfast meat (my boys love ham - I usually use Hormel Natural Choice ham to again avoid nitrates/nitrites) and bake at 350 until the centers of each puff no longer jiggles.

How I make it work: I make these at night once the kids go to bed. When dh and I are hanging out and visiting I'll make enough of these to last for 2 breakfasts. The boys like them best in mini muffin tins because they love to pop the whole thing into their little mouths at once!

We make lots of other things for breakfast as well: peanut butter toast with turkey bacon and fresh fruit, french toast, over easy eggs with toast and fresh fruit and yes an occasional bowl of cheerios. :) But I just wanted to give a few recipes and ideas of things that can most easily be made ahead.

I hope someone gets inspired to revamp their breakfast menu. Leave me a comment if you have other ideas. We can always use some inspiration!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Twitter Here I Come!

Okay, with a little trepidation I'm finally launching myself into the Twitterverse. Only time will tell if this will be beneficial or simply one more thing that will drive me nuts! ;)

For you Twitter gals and guys, you can follow me at @JenneferatSSA

Excuse me as I tweet outta here...


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Our Schoolroom 2010

I have not shown our schoolroom since this post back in 2007. This summer was the first time I made significant changes other than adding more and more books each year. ;) When it came time to organize our new materials, I realized there was - at all. Plus we had stacks of books all over the floor in every available space...and that was before I unboxed this years' supply. We bought new shelves and since we had to move everything out anyway, we decided to paint, too. I was never crazy about the old color but this new color I adore! It's so warm and it looks great with the espresso colored shelves.

Our schoolroom is really a formal dining and is in the very front of the house. This is the first thing you see when you walk in our home.

Here is a full view (or as full as my camera would allow) of one wall.

Top shelf: poetry books and educational resource books for me; second shelf: discipleship resources and in the basket are handmade preschool games and activities; third shelf: science-related books; fourth shelf: math manipulatives; fifth shelf: misc. notebooks.

In the basket on the floor to the left of the shelf are current history supplemental books (I pull six weeks worth at a time). On top of center shelf are our school supplies. The two larger drawers on either side are mine and the center ones hold the boys' markers, twistables, glue sticks, scissors and crayons. On the floor to the right of the shelf are some big books for Beckett (mostly ABC and number books) for him to look at when he wants to be in there with us. On the actual bookcase's top shelf are Thatcher's materials we use daily (or close to it) and the bottom is for Haddon.

Top shelf: SOTW books and activity guides not currently in use as well as a few books from our study of the ancients; second shelf: books from the medieval and early modern periods; third shelf: modern history, Texas history and GeoPuzzles; fourth shelf: misc. chapter books; fifth shelf: more notebooks.

I love these maps! We have had them for three years now and they are one of the most utilized resources we own. Before each history lesson we circle in vis-a-vis where the area is we are studying. The boys are always coming over to look at something. Currently Haddon is really interested in the flags at the bottom of the world map. :)

This is our preschool board. I blogged about it in a previous post if you are interested. Beckett is loving it just like his brothers did before!

The full wall on the opposite side.

On top of this bookcase are our educational puzzles. The top shelf holds Spanish games and resources. The center shelf holds science books for Haddon's science basket - Let's Read and Find Out, Magic School Bus, Scholastic: Question and Answer and Usborne Beginners (science related titles only). The bottom shelf holds old scholastic leveled readers from my teaching days, Bob Books, Primary Phonics Readers and a few Nora Gaydos sets.

And just because he's only made my blog once, a photo of our sweet Wrigley! :)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

School is Underway at Smooth Stones

We have now completed our first three weeks of school for the '10-'11 school year. We've had a great start, much better than I expected actually. This year Thatcher is in fourth grade, Haddon in Kinder and Beckett in pre-k. My days are so full but they are good.

For the first month of school I committed myself to going "off radar" meaning that I would cut out all but what was essential in order to establish good routines. I told myself I would do a few things each day: school with home phone off and Mommy offline (I keep my cell phone with me on mute for dh or in case of emergency), home-cooked healthy meals 3x a day, time in the Bible, enough of me at the end of each day to have something left for dh, exercise most days, a clean house and an early bedtime.

Those commitments have filled my day so much that I am not sure how I'll go back "on radar". Things like an occasional girls' night, time for blogging, nights to scrapbook every now and then and time on my favorite message board are all icing on the cake right now. I am really hoping to work these all in but it will be a gradual process. Today is a holiday and I am caught up on lesson plans and the house is clean so I am enjoying the luxury of blogging! :)

I have updated my sidebars to show what all we are doing this year. With Thatcher for the first time I am using an official science curriculum and we have really enjoyed Real Science for Kids (RS4K) Chemistry very much. Lessons One and Two of Writing Tales have also gone very well. This year we have really ramped up the amount of writing Thatcher does on a daily basis and he is doing wonderfully with the increase. It's a challenge for him but very much within his range of ability. We started the year with six weeks of review from Horizons 4 (using the worksheets provided in the TM) as well as introducing Daily Word Problems. We are also drilling math facts because they are still not at the point of automaticity. We are working through SOTW 4 at an accelerated pace (upcoming blog post) due to some of the emotionally challenging content included in this phase of history but Thatcher is loving it. He begs for history every day.

Haddon is loving Horizons K for math. He wants to do it first each day and does at least two lessons daily, sometimes more. Now that we have the colorful pages of Horizons, ETC has been dethroned as his favorite. :) Still it is proving to be a solid phonics program for now two children at Smooth Stones Academy. Haddon is becoming a solid reader on its merits, along with tons of practice with Mommy. He is enjoying his science book basket as well.

Starting school with Beckett has been one of my greatest joys this year. He is a strong-willed child and I expected the transition to mommy as teacher would be a tough one for him. I was wrong; he loves it! So far he is only doing Get Ready for the Code with me as well as our calendar board. He also watches Plazo Sesamo daily in preparation to start Elementary Spanish in first grade. Each thing he does with complete excitement. I know the newness will most likely wear off soon, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts! He also goes to our church pre-school two days a week and that is a fun break for all of us. :)

We still have quite a bit to tweak. A smoother start to our mornings (attitude being a struggle), more efficient use of our time so we are sure to get most subjects done every day, my getting in bed early enough so that I am prepared for anything the day brings my way among others are still areas that need improvement. But we'll get there.

I hope your new year has gotten off to an amazing start. This has been our best start so far and for that I am very grateful. Be encouraged if your beginnings have been a little more rocky. You can read about my very first day here. It was not pretty. ;)