Friday, April 26, 2019

KK's Mexican Spinach Dip

We love Mexican food in our house.  It doesn't matter what the dish, we are all in.  So, when I realized we didn't have anything for lunch one day I started digging around.  I had a lot of extra frozen spinach. I started searching for options and ran across a sort of Mexican spinach casserole. I didn't have most of the ingredients, but it gave me an idea.  I pulled out spinach, hash browns, and some beef and decided to just throw it all together.  The result is the following recipe.

I've learned over the years that it's best to pull out all your ingredients first.  But, don't just pull them out, measure them.  Then put all the extra stuff back.  Trust me, it'll be less work you have to do later on.  Even better, line up your now measured ingredients in the order you will use them.  This will ensure you won't forget anything.  If you are like me, you will inevitably be halfway through and realize you forgot an important ingredient early on in the steps unless you prepare well.  While it may not matter to some recipes, it could really throw other ones off. Have you ever been about to put bread in the oven and realized you used baking soda instead of salt?  I have... trust me, it doesn't end well. As the Girl Scout motto says,  "be prepared."

Once I had all my ingredients measured and lined up, I put a bit of oil in 2 large skillets.  I also start my oven preheating at 400.  Though you could do it in one, I figured it would be faster if I did two since I knew the hash browns would take quite a while to prepare.  After I got the potatoes started cooking on medium low, with a bit of salt and pepper, I began thawing out my spinach.

With the spinach safely tucked away in the thawing brilliance that is the microwave, toss your chopped onion into your other prepared skillet (medium low as well).  As the onions start getting softer, toss in garlic and cilantro and stir it all up.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions began to get that see through look.  Don't forget to keep stirring those potatoes too!

With your onions fully cooked, scrape them into a bowl and set them aside. Yay! You have an empty skillet! But not for long... toss in your ground beef. Leave it in the pan on medium low stirring occasionally.

As you cook your meat, check on that spinach in the microwave.  If it is well thawed, pull it out and bring it to the sink.  Grab a strainer and press out the water in the spinach in small batches.  Once all your spinach is pressed, add it to the hash browns. (Don't forget that beef! Don't let it burn.) Now that the spinach and potatoes are together and cooking, grease your 9x9 pan. 

Remember your onion mix? Go ahead and add it to the now cooked beef. Add in the taco seasoning as well. Stir it all up until the seasoning is fully blended.

You should now have to pans with fully cooked food.  Pour them both into your prepared 9x9 dish.  Stir them all together and sprinkle with your shredded cheese. Place your dish in the oven.  It should be ooey gooey and slightly brown after about 20 minutes.

As it cooks, let me take a moment to calm any nerves you have about your picky eaters and this dish.  My daughter wouldn't dare eat spinach unless it was mixed in to a salad or as spinach dip...stealthily of course.  For some reason, she is also really against hash browns.  The only ones that are acceptable to her are McDonald's hash browns. I know, it doesn't make sense to me either. But in this recipe, she noticed neither.  Early on in eating she asked what was in the dish.  I managed to change the subject.  At the end of our meal though, I did tell her.  It didn't bother her after the fact.  She loved it regardless.  She even asked for seconds!!

 Pull your delicious smelling goodness out of the oven and let it cool a minute.  As it cools, grab your sour cream and chips.  Spoon your dip into a bowl and top with sour cream.  I like to stir mine in.  It's thick so you can't really dip it like a typical dip.  I spoon a bit onto my chip and chow down.  Only have crumbs left? No problem.  Toss them in your bowl and stir. It makes a tasty crunchy meal!  This was a huge hit in our house. Happy eating :)
    4 tbs Olive oil 
    10 oz frozen hash browns (can be a bit more or less)
     Salt and pepper to taste
    1 yellow onion, chopped
    2 tbs minced garlic
    1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro
    1 box (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed
    1/2 cup taco seasoning
    1 lb ground beef 
    1 cp cheddar cheese, shredded
    tortilla chips
    Sour cream (optional)

    1. Prep 2 large skillets with olive oil and begin to heat. Preheat oven to 400.
    2. Put the frozen hash browns, salt and pepper in one pan and  start cooking them on medium low, stirring occasionally.
    3. Put chopped onions in the other skillet and saute. Add the garlic and cilantro about halfway through.
    4. Once sauteed, remove from skillet and set aside. 
    5. Take the thawed spinach and squeeze out the extra water.  Add spinach to hash browns and stir.
    6. Brown the beef in the now empty skillet.
    7. While browning: prep a 9x9 baking dish by lightly coating it with oil.
    8. Add the onion mix to the browned beef. Stir in taco seasoning until well mixed.
    9. Pour both pans into prepared dish and stir. Top with shredded cheese.
    10. Cook in oven at 400 for 20 minutes or until cheese is well melted and just starting to brown.
    11. To serve, place in a small bowl and stir a spoonful of sour cream.  Spoon into tortilla chips for a thick and delicious meal.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

It's finished! I finished my second Cereal Bible.  It has 40 pages of trivia, activities, teen discussion starters, and so much more.  It is $3 from TPT. I hope you enjoy it and be sure to leave feedback.

Check out my freebie on Genesis.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

FREEBIE: Learn about Genesis with the Cereal Bible

I wanted a unique way to share the Bible with my daughter who is a hands on leaner. After seeing a Pinterest post where they used a cereal box with a hodge podge of pictures to help review books of the Bible,  a light bulb went off. I created a printout for Genesis. Then I realized,  I just had an empty box.  So I made cards that fit in the box.  they include mini coloring pages,  a quick guide to the stories in Genesis,  a fact sheet, activities pages and so much more.  We've been having so much fun that I thought I'd share.  My eventual goal is to do a box for every book in the Bible.  My Genesis printable is free. It is just a small portion of what the other boxes will have in them.   It can be downloaded for free from Teachers Pay Teachers. Please let me know your thoughts and ideas for cards.

The printout is made to fit an an individual size cereal box.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

My Baby Story

Eloise was born at 24 weeks and 5 days.  I had a very normal pregnancy until week 23.  Friday, March 25th, I woke up very early, around 3am, and felt something was wrong.  I quickly found I was bleeding and got very scared.  My husband was out of town on a church retreat so I was home alone.  So, I called my parents who called an ambulance.  I was rushed to the hospital.  My husband was finally located and rushed back to to town by a friend. 
            The doctors found that my normally low blood pressure had sky rocketed so I was kept Friday night for observation.  I also received a steroid shot so that Eloise could develop a little faster since the doctors felt she would come early.  Saturday afternoon I was sent home with blood pressure medicine and put on bed rest.  Early Monday morning I woke up again with back pain; not an incredibly unusual thing.  Unable to sleep I went to the living room and took some Tylenol.  Within an hour, I had a horrible headache and decided to wake my husband up and head back to the hospital.
            My blood pressure was once again very high.  I was diagnosed with preeclampsia in the 2nd trimester.  The decision was made to transfer me to another hospital that specialized in high risk pregnancies.  When I arrived, I was immediately placed on magnesium and more blood pressure medicine.  We were told I would be here for the duration of the pregnancy which hopefully would be a few weeks.  My husband stayed all that week until Thursday when I insisted he go to work.  Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in the hospital bed visiting with my parents and my pastor when the doctor came in.  She explained my blood work that morning didn’t look good. My liver was having issues from the blood pressure which was staying around 170 though had been around 200.  The pregnancy would likely only be a few more days or, at worse, hours.  My husband was immediately called back to my side.
            Late Thursday night, I was about to take my evening medicine and my husband was getting into bed.  The nurse had left for a moment and I stated the room just spun around.  My husband asked lots of questions but I couldn’t really give him an answer.  He told the nurse this when she returned.  Within minutes, I went into a seizure.  My husband was taken out of the room while nurses and doctors worked on me; shortly after I went into a second seizure.  The pregnancy was now too dangerous to continue and an emergency c-section had to occur.          
          I was wheeled into an operating room, unaware of what was going on.  I delivered my baby girl at 1:27am Friday morning… just one week after any signs of preeclampsia and hours after eeclampsia.   I was the first person in my family to have preeclampsia. We have no history of high blood pressure, diabetes, or seizures.  There was no way to know what was going to happen. 
   In early July I received a call from my OB/GYN who wanted me to come and do a full blood work up.  2 weeks later they called back and told me that something was wrong and I was to go see a specialist who could tell me what was happening.  It was discovered that some of my genes were not normal.  Recently connections have been shown between this particular abnormality and difficult pregnancy, in particular, eclamptic pregnancies.  So Eloise will likely be our last but our perfect little princess.  We were so thankful not to know about the gene before, otherwise we wouldn't have tried to get pregnant in the first place.
            After 115 days in the NICU we were told our little girl was finally able to come home.  We were thrilled and terrified all at once.  We were able to stay our first night with her in the hospital.The next day, we packed up our home for the past few months (at the Ronald McDonald House) and drove home…. This time with our little Eloise.
            Eloise has dealt with a lot in her life so far.  She has faced many of the typical preemie issues: PDA, lung issues, NEC (that was scary!), multiple blood transfusions, bradycardia, etc.  She also had some issue gaining weight early on.  She has gone through physical therapy and multiple cast for her club foot.  Such a minor thing considering all the obstacles she has already overcome.  At 6 we learned she was also autistic and has ADHD.  But she is a spunky little fighter. She is living proof that God still performs miracles.  She brings joy to a room and I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Read Aloud: “Mouse Scouts: Make a Difference”

“Mouse Scouts: Make a Difference”
By Sarah Dillard
Buy it on Amazon 
Rating: 10/10
Age: 5+

The world of the Mouse Scouts takes place in our world... but on a miniature level. The book follows a Mouse Scout troop as they begin the next level of scouts.  The scouts have a new troop leader, rumored to be very tough, and the girls are nervous.  This girls start their scouting year be creating a garden.  Like any project, there are setbacks and things the girls have to work together to overcome.  The mice make for a great example of using their resources wisely, taking care of their community, and teamwork.

Each scout has very different personalities.  One of them is a bit of a mean girl, but she has redeeming qualities and does still work with the troop.

This is a lighthearted book about friendship and of course, being a scout.  It is neatly written and you will enjoy reading through it as much as your daughter.  There are lots of fun pictures to accompany each page as well. A fun bonus with this book is that your daughter (and her troop) can earn a badge alongside the mouse scouts. You can technically earn the badge by just reading the book, but it's more fun if you do the printable activity kit. 

What my young reader most enjoyed was the similarities to her own scout troop. At the end of each chapter is an excerpt from the Mouse Scout Handbook. She loved reading their handbook and seeing the mouse uses of everyday objects. For example, the use of a fork as a mouse rake.

Girl Scouts! And really any girl. The chapters are short and could easily be read at a troop meeting. I would think ages 5-11 would most enjoy this book.

"Mouse Scouts" is the first in a series

Buy the badge
Printable activity kit from the author

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Family Movie Night: Unicorns or Noah's Ark ideas

My daughter loves unicorns.  I decided that this month's family movie night would be centered around the unicorn theme.  As I made my plans I realized that all the unicorn foods were mostly just rainbow foods.  As such, this meal would also be the perfect accompaniment for the Veggie Tales' "Noah's Ark" movie as well; thus making it the perfect night for all ages.

It all started with this recipe.  Like me, you may have seen the Pin for "Quick and Simple Unicorn Noodles" on Pinterest.  I knew I had to make them.  Bonus, the chef explains the chemistry behind the different colored noodles in the blog post.  In our home, my husband and I call that "secret schooling." It's those little hidden lessons that we love. We chose to use a pesto sauce for the noodles which added a fun green shade.  I thought the red sauce would be too overpowering for the pale noodles.

We like to do a craft on family movie night as well.  We are currently creating an alphabet with animals on them.  I saw this as the perfect opportunity to create the U for Unicorn. It may not be a real animal, but it is too cute an opportunity to pass up.  I even found an adorable blog for inspiration.

After that recipe I started digging deeper into the world of unicorn food.  There are a lot of cute options out there.  We made a few alterations to make our meal slightly less pricey and more fitting to us.  For the spaghetti, we did not use the more difficult to find and expensive cellophane noodles.  However, this may be a common thing in your area (lucky).  We made a Unicorn Poop veggie dip but I altered it to be the more traditional ranch and sour cream dip since we don't like greek yogurt.  We used carrots for dipping but referred to them as unicorn horns.  We go all the way with our themes.

For a second side, I opted for a super colorful fruit salad.  It kept with the rainbow theme but added an extra tasty side that seemed needed.  Add in your families favorite fruits.  Bonus: Turn it into "secret schooling" by making this with your kids and talking about the colors of the rainbow (who remembers Roy G Biv?)  You could also use this as a guide and turn it into a cute Bible lesson.

Now for the desert! Best part of the meal, right? I found a recipe for Rainbow Unicorn Dip.  It's really just cheesecake dip with graham crackers.  This recipe also makes suggestions for more natural food coloring. 

Below, I have listed our movie night meal, activity and movie.  Enjoy!

Quick and Simple Unicorn Noodles
Easy Homemade Pesto
Unicorn Poop Veggie Dip (with carrots for dipping)
Fruit salad (the more colorful the better)... call it "Unicorn Salad"
Rainbow Unicorn Dip (with graham crackers for dipping)

Activity idea:
Paper Unicorn 
Follow and Obey God's Colorful Way (fruit salad activity)
Noah's Ark Doorknob Hanger (We made this when my daughter was younger.  It's a big hit.)

Unicorn- "The Secret of Moonacre"
Rainbows- "VeggieTales: Noah's Ark"

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Read Aloud: “Upside-Down Magic”

“Upside-Down Magic”
By Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins
Buy it on Amazon 
Rating: 9/10
Age: 7+

Nory Horace’s world is much like our own; except everyone has magic.  Each person fits into one of 5 categories which they call the 5 F’s.  These include Flickers (can make self and things invisible), Fliers (they fly), Fuzzies (they are good with animals), Fluxers (they can shape shift into animals), and Flickers (who have fire magic.) Unfortunately for Nory, she doesn’t fit neatly into her category. Her magic is upside-down.  Now that she is in 5th grade she will have to begin her magic training… which means dealing with her upside down magic in a classroom full of other upside-down magic kids.

This book gives an age appropriate look at bullies, making new friends, big life changes and learning to accept yourself.  There are some things to consider before reading this book with your child. Early in the book, you will learn that Nory’s mother passed away.  This has a big impact on family dynamics in a not so positive way.  Her dad has mostly left the raising of his children, cooking and care for the home up to Nory’s oldest sibling while he throws himself into work.  Nory has a lot of pressure early on from her dad and siblings.  

I thought this book was very sweet.  I felt Nory was an excellent role model.  She makes mistakes but always tries to fix her mistakes. Overall, it is a well crafted story. The characters are interesting and they make you want to cheer for them.

My young reader also loved the book and insisted we start book 2 the moment we finished.  I didn't worry about forgetting to read a chapter because she always had the book ready to go. 

This book is great for kids struggling with bullies and finding their place. I think both boys and girls would enjoy this book.

Upside Down Magic is the first book in a series.

Play online games about the book 
Buy it on Amazon