Sunday, July 31, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of August 1

Well, this is another busy week in the Brooks household…I go back to my day job this week so I expect the days up until then to be busy with preparations for what comes this month---SCHOOL!

Possible Entrees for the Week (served with veggies, of course):
  • beef bbq sandwiches
  • chicken fajitas with whole wheat tortillas
  • shredded chicken tacos
  • grilled London broil
  • lasagna

Thursday, July 28, 2011

French Onion Chicken Wraps

I actually just made these up tonight--really...but they were soo yummy I thought, I have to share these!
In the next town over, there is an amazing little coffee shop that serves wraps and I guess that was the inspiration for this meal. When I go, I always order the black and blue wrap--lots of salad greens, blue cheese, and roast beef. Well, tonight I didn't have blue cheese or roast beef, so I went a little more low sodium lol. This was the perfect easy super for a hot summer evening. I even had the grilled chicken already cooked and sliced in the freezer. I just pulled the bag out of the freezer (I let it thaw for a few minutes) and into a little glass pan for a couple of minutes in the microwave--just long enough that we weren't eating ice cold chicken.

To make one wrap you will need:

1 whole wheat tortilla--just whatever size you have is fine
sliced, grilled chicken
1 wedge of light Laughing Cow French Onion cheese
salad greens

Spread the whole wedge of cheese onto one side of the tortilla. Cover that with salad greens. Along one side of that, put a layer of chicken. Starting with that end of the tortilla, roll the tortilla like a burrito. Hold it with a couple of toothpicks and cut into two pieces. Serve with a little cup of dressing to dip the wrap into. (I used Italian dressing.)

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Weekend Bloggy Reading

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Just to give you a heads-up, tax-free weekend in North Carolina is August 5-7. I just love the idea of not having to pay tax on something and if you buy a bigger ticket item or a lot of shoes or apparel, this can really save the money.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Going to Letterland

Well,I just returned from a two day workshop on implementing Letterland in my second grade classroom. It's always good to have the "bonding" time with colleagues that I work so closely with but this was a great workshop too. We had such an enthusiastic presenter--which is a definite plus if you don't sleep well in a different place like me and you tend to get super tired after lunch at workshops and such.
I taught using Letterland at the previous school system I worked in but the system I work for now is going to be implementing it in second grade starting this year. It's exciting because I know that it is a good program and it works.
In case you don't know, Letterland is a systematic, research-based phonics approach. Each letter has characters who represent the letter and its sounds--since we all know that the letters make different sounds in different words! :) There is a story for each different spelling pattern and it's easy for the kids to remember. They really enjoy "going to Letterland".
The program begins in pre-school and continues through second grade. Our emphasis is going to be on spelling in word study units with more complex spelling patterns. We'll sing songs, act the stories out, work on the computer program, and learn--all at the same time.
If you are interested, they have a website--
I don't how it would be to use if you are homeschooling or if it is at all designed for it; I've just never taught it to a few kids. I will say that I have a storybook about all the characters a-z and my kids have been know to sneak it off the bookshelf in my bedroom a time or two lol!

bloghopbutterflybutton Terrific Thursday Blog Hop! Week 25

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of July 25

Well, this is a crazy week—two weeks til school starts back for me and the kids are taking swimming lessons and we have Bible School. Ah, the joys of summertime. It’ll be over all too soon… Here’s the proposed plan for the week…


Monday—kids eat at Bible School, parents ??

Tuesday—kids eat at Bible School, parents??

Wednesday—kids eat at Bible School, parents??

Thursday—chicken fajitas, black beans

Friday—beef bbq sandwiches, bbq beans

Saturday—grilled chicken wraps in whole wheat tortillas, grilled zucchini

Sunday—shredded chicken tacos, corn


**By the way, all of the meat on the menu is either prepared and ready to cook or already cooked and in the freezer Smile!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our Adoption Story—Part 5

Well, we moved on with life after the kids left but it just wasn’t the same. We had gotten used to having a household of five. It seemed so quiet-and our daughter seemed lonely. The kids went on to live with a great family just down the road from us-another kinship placement of sorts. Then they went back to the parents, then back to the great family, then back to the parents. The first time we saw them after they left our home, they were on an unsupervised visit with the parents. When the girl saw me, she came to me and said, “pick me up Mommy”. (We were always so amazed at the way that we were “Mommy and Daddy” and the parents were “Mom and Dad” and they kept it straight.) I picked her up and just held her tight. Her mom got so mad that she had to go to another room. We saw them ever so often but over time they forgot who I was. I told my husband that I’d rather not see them anymore because it was too painful-they remembered him and had no problem playing with our daughter (I think it was a spite thing with the parents as to why they didn’t act as if I were there and still knew my husband’s name).

A year and a half went by. We prayed for the kids’ safety because we knew that they had been back and forth with the parents and knew that it wasn’t the best of situations. I don’t even remember what day of the week it was or anything when it happened; I just remember that I had been going to walk around the high school track with a friend each evening and I was getting ready to leave. My husband was at work; he called home to tell me what was going on—the parents had been caught in a drug buy and the kids were with them. (That’s all I really say about that.) DSS wanted to know if we would take them back. I immediately said yes. This was the answer to our prayers—this is the way that God was telling us that the kids would be okay. I talked to the social worker on the phone and within 30 minutes the kids were at our home.

We were in a much better shape to take them this time. We owned our home by this time—a bigger place than the tiny two bedroom apartment we lived in when they had been with us the first time. We had a big yard to play in. I worked in the county where we lived—just a couple of minutes from home, too. We were also older and knew how things worked with DSS a little better.

The kids broke my heart when they came in the house. They were filthy and stank. Their clothes were in awful shape. They had been at daycare that day and I knew from experience that kids who have been at daycare all day aren’t going to be the cleanest kids—they’ve played all day-- but this was ridiculous! Their faces were filthy too. The trash bag full of clothes that the social worker brought stank and had to immediately be washed and gone through. They were torn and stained and mostly didn’t match. That first night, after supper and baths, the kids had a little sleepover in our daughter’s bedroom. We didn’t have enough beds for everyone. I remember staying up late washing clothes and trying to find some that matched.

We didn’t know how long the kids would be with us this time but we were ready for the journey.


The previous parts of this story can be found in archives.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Adoption Story—Part 4

Well, about a month after the first supervised visit, the children went for another visit with their parents. This turned into sporadic supervised visits. There was no rhyme or reason to when the visits occurred-the social worker would contact my husband, who would play phone tag with me because the children and I were in a completely different county and it was up to me to bring them back in time for a visit. We begged for a schedule since most of the visits were coordinated on the day that they were to occur. Our requests were ignored.

During this time, our family went through a whole range of emotions. Our daughter thought that her cousins were going back home each and every they went for a visit. She would get upset. We would get upset because we didn’t really know what to tell her or really what was going on ourselves. It is DSS’s role to preserve the family. We wanted the parents to step up and take responsibility but at the same time, we had learned a lot about the situation and really didn’t want them to go back. It was an agonizing time. Stressful doesn’t even begin to describe it. My husband was in school completing certification for his job during this time, we had just moved into an apartment, I worked in a different county as a teacher, I drove the children to and from daycare on a long commute each day, and it was pretty much just me at home with the kids each evening, Monday thru Thursday because of my husband being in school. To top it off, our social worker was very unsympathetic to any of our requests. It felt like nothing we said or did meant anything. We felt helpless to take care of these children and then watch them be put right back into the same situation.

We wanted so much to be strong and do the “right thing”, but when I started having excruciating headaches that wouldn’t go away and was having to go to the ER, it was all clearly too much. Our three-year-old daughter knew what DSS was and that they could take you away from your parents. We did what we thought was the right thing to do for our family (us and our daughter)-we made the call to the social worker and had the children moved from our home. If was the hardest thing we have ever done as husband and wife. We felt awful for it, but we knew that we couldn’t continue to jeopardize my health and our daughter’s emotional well-being. I’d like to say that we prayed about our decision, but I honestly don’t remember doing it. We did pray after they left-a lot-for their safety.


The previous parts to this story can be found in the archives.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of July 18

Ok, so I haven’t menu planned in a while--crazy summer at the Brooks house Smile! I’m not even gonna write days of the week on this one, but I am gonna write breakfasts and lunch ideas because we are on summer vacation from school still.

oatmeal with blackberries and walnuts
raisin pecan zucchini bread
oatmeal pancakes

leftovers from supper
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
scrambled eggs and wheat toast

grilled london broil with grilled veggies and steamfresh rice
beef burritoes in low-carb tortillas
grilled chicken and BBQ baked beans
lasagna (from the freezer Smile)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Comments I am not sure what I was doing but I just deleted 24 comments from this blog...If you left a comment recently and I deleted it I'm sorry :( It was not intentional.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our New Composter

My husband and I recently decided to give composting a try. We have lots of grass clippings, leaves, and such around the house PLUS lots of garbage that a family of five creates. We like to garden and would like to do more of it and have healthier plants and flowers. Sounds pretty win-win to me!
We purchased a small ceramic compost bin for our kitchen (it has a charcoal filter so we don't smell anything) and a larger compost tumbler for our back yard.
We are excited about this because it is frugal and green. We won't be throwing away nearly as much garbage--we'll be recycling!!
We don't know a whole lot about composting but I am sure we will be learning quickly...


Let's Just Give It Away


Smart and Trendy Moms

Cabbage Rolls

cabbage rolls
Well, we are so thankful to have an abundance of fresh produce from my in-laws. They gave us onions, cabbage, cucumbers, squash and zucchini, green beans and lettuce so far. I sure don’t want this to go to waste because 1) it’s really good, fresh produce, and 2) it’s FREE! So…I don’t eat cole slaw and I didn’t know what to do with the head of cabbage until I started thinking about the cooked ground beef I had in the freezer for just such an occasion. I am pretty sure I have never made or eaten cabbage rolls until tonight, but this won’t be the last time I’m sure. These were awesome! Even DS6 was excited when he saw his plate (and he’s a pretty picky guy). I found this recipe in my Betty Crocker Cookbook and tweaked it ever so slightly. We are watching our weight after all!
1 head of cabbage
1 lb. lean ground beef, cooked and drained
1/2 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. water
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce (or two 8 oz. cans)
onion (as much or as little as you prefer—I added two small onions from the garden and they equaled about half a store-bought onion)
16 oz. container of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. olive oil
onion powder, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
Mrs. Dash, to taste

First, add quinoa and water to a small pot, cover and let boil about 10-15 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and onions and let them cook down for a few minutes.
While those ingredients are cooking, add separated cabbage leaves to a pot of boiling water. Let boil until limp (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, put ground beef, onion powder, garlic powder, Mrs. Dash, salt and pepper, 1/2 of the tomato sauce and the quinoa, mushrooms, and onions when finished.
In a small bowl, mix the rest of the tomato sauce, lemon juice, and sugar. Set Aside.
In a cabbage leaf, place a small amount of filling (about 1/3 c.). Roll the leaf around the filling much like you would roll a burrito. Place in a slightly greased 9x13 in. pan. Repeat this until all filling has been used.
Pour the small bowl of remaining tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls and bake until heated through and the cabbage is browned a little around the edges (about 30-40 minutes).

NOTES: You will most likely have cabbage leaves left. I just ate the ones I had left over Smile.
The original recipe called for uncooked ground beef and 1/2 c. uncooked instant rice to be combined in the filling. I had cooked ground beef in my freezer that needed to be used, so I changed the original recipe a bit.
I have recently found a love for quinoa because it is soo good for me (and you) and I can eat it on a diet easier than rice. Plus it is full of vitamins and protein.

Smart and Trendy Moms

Weekend Bloggy Reading


Raisin Pecan Zucchini Bread

We got a bunch of zucchini out of my husband’s parents’ garden and some of it was too big to grill or sauté and I was sooo……EXCITED! Because big zucchini is PERFECT for making zucchini bread and I LOVE zucchini bread!!!
Around here, we are all trying to watch our eating habits since we returned from vacation where we all gained a bunch of weight!!! (and I mean BUNCH!) I this original recipe from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. I did change a few ingredients around, though. So here is my revised recipe…
3 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. Splenda
2/3 c. sugar (original recipe called for all sugar)
4 large eggs (or 1 c. egg substitute)
2/3 c. natural applesauce (original recipe called for oil)
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. whole wheat flour (original recipe said either all purpose or whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1/2 c. raisins

Lower your oven rack so that your bread will be more centered. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray the bottom of two loaf pans.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, sugar, Splenda, applesauce, vanilla, and eggs.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then add the nuts and raisins. Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and bake for 50-60 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick (if it  comes out clean, the bread is done).
Cool the bread in the pan for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack , then loosen the bread from the loaf pan with a butter knife. Let the bread cool completely, then wrap tightly. It will keep at room temp. for 4 days or refrigerated for 10 days. Or you can do like I am going to if any is left and freeze it.

NOTES: The original recipe says that 3 c. shredded zucchini is about 2-3 medium. I used 4 medium-large zucchini and ended up with enough to make four batches of this recipe (which I did all day yesterday Smile)!
I have found that this bread works really well with the disposable foil pans because it doesn’t overbrown and it comes out of the pan easier.
I have made this bread without the nuts and raisins and it was still super good.
The best way to shred the zucchini is in the food processor. If I had to shred all that zucchini with a cheese grater I would lose my mind!
I wrap my bread first in wax paper, then in aluminum foil to make sure it is tightly sealed.

zucchini bread

My oldest daughter helped me make my first batch of this yummy bread yesterday. I was so glad to have such an eager helper!

Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays

TastyTuesday200pix How One Sandwich Will Feed a Village

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Little Blogging Hiatus

OK, so recently I haven't blogged, or menu-planned, or anything else that I usually do...I have been on vacation. It started with a visit to the Army post where my husband was in OSUT. We (there was a bus-load of three adults, 1 teenager, and 5 kids) had family day with him, watched him graduate, and brought him home!!

family day--in front of a portion of the Berlin Wall
DD9 did not want to let her daddy go!
Well, we came home for a few days and then off to Charleston, SC we went for a week! It was awesome! We toured Ft. Sumter, Boone Hall Plantation, Patriot's Point, and lots of other places. We ate lots of good (but not good-for-you) food. We went to a great 4th of July Festival and saw some terrific fireworks (which was definitely a plus considering our town wasn't even doing a fireworks display for the 4th).

Our family at Boone Hall Plantation

DS6 and DD7 at the entrace to Patriot's Point Naval Museum

the kiddos waiting for our carriage tour

the awesome fireworks display in North Charleston

On our way back home, we detoured to Savannah, GA. We had a nice time there until it was finally time to come on home...and we are glad to be back!

the WWII Memorial on River St. in Savannah