Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lazy Day Experiment

8:30 AM

I used to hear other families say "Oh we never watch TV" and I always looked at them a little sideways. Really? I would think. None at all? What do you do when your kids wake up at 5 in the morning?

Well, we've become one of those families. Not the "never" kind, although we do go through the odd week here and there with none at all. It started in April, one regular Monday morning when Ox hopped out of bed at 6. I simply said "No TV today, because it's not good for our brain." He said "Oh, okay." and proceeded to play happily on his own. Amazing. Just like that, we were off of TV. It became so much easier to get the kids ready in the morning (we have to be out the door before 7 during the school year), I felt like I was getting more quality time with them as a result. 

Ox during Judy Moody
Of course it is summer now. Deep summer. Little Frog was woken by a thunderstorm just after 5 this morning. Oh yes I turned on TV. Oh yes, she watched 3 episodes of Dora and 1 episode of the new cranky My Little Pony. 

I went back to bed. 

Ox got up at 7, and asked for Judy Moody and the Not So Bummer Summer. Again. Hmmm, I thought. Could I? Could I possibly do a movie day? As in movies all day? Without feeling guilty? Yes we can, but I will probably feel guilty. 

Still. I'm all for an experiment (and, to be honest, I'm crampy, so am much less activity-inclined than usual). I am curious to see how this will go. Will they really watch movies all day? Will I really let them? 

Little Frog during Heidi
10:16 AM

4 hours in (OMG!) and we're starting to feel restless. I know recent statistics said on average (AVERAGE!!) kids watch 6 hours of TV a day - - apparently that takes a lot of practice, because this is tough. 

We just finished up with Annie, and on to Heidi (the Shirley Temple version) which begs the question. . . what is with all the good movies starring girls? I may need to do a little research again, all the kids' favorites are about girls (Labyrinth, Judy Moody, Matilda, Pippi Longstocking, now Annie and Heidi. . . )

Anyway, I'm starting to feel brain-dead. Not sure we're going to make it through the whole day.

Ox is already more interested in the cat than in the movie - they're playing with a fly together. Of course the black-and-white of Heidi is majorly freaking him out.

LF, me, and Ox during Chamber of Secrets
12:08 PM

Gurgle. Gurgle.

Heidi hooked Ox after all, although I had forgotten how far the movie deviates from the book (which is always annoying). I may have to introduce the kids to more Shirley Temple, though. More musicals too I think. I showed Eli part of Oliver! once and he liked it a lot (thank you Metropolitan Boys Choir for expanding his musical taste).

The girl movies started to wear on me so we're on to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They've seen the first HP a couple times, but not CoS. . . which is way better than the first.

Oh, and Jimmy Johns for lunch. I had an Unwich. It was gross.

1:00 PM

Yeah. About 10 minutes after that picture I couldn't handle it anymore and: did the dishes, changed the cat's litter and water, cleaned out the inside of my car, cleaned out the inside of the big garbage can/dumpster thingie, vacuumed the sun room, made an estimate appointment to get our floor resanded, made eye appointments for the kids, weighed myself. All of that slightly helped the brain-drain, but not much. I think the movie has about 5 minutes left before I must kill it. Maybe 3.

1: 30 PM

OUT OF THE HOUSE At Last!!!! To the library for the Brodini Magician show. We were a little early so we grabbed a few Elephant and Piggie books, another Stink book, and a Babymouse.

We tried to find the Annie Soundtrack, because Ox declared it the best of all the movies we watched today and he wants to listen to the songs when he goes to bed, but the library didn't have it.

However we did see signs for the local community theater production of Annie, coincidentally going on this weekend. We may need to take a family field trip to the theater. Ox is hoping an actual dog plays Sandy. I'm kind of hoping the part will be played by a portly, middle-aged woman. Because that would be funny.

4:03 PM

Experiment DONE and here are the results: The thought of turning on the TV again makes me nauseous, we are NOT finishing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets any time soon. Apparently watching as much TV as the average American kid makes us all crazy and feel kind of carsick. I don't recommend anybody else try the experiment, but at least my kids can't complain when they ask to watch TV; I can say "remember that day I let you watch movies ALL DAY?!?" Blech. Apparently I would no longer be able to watch Cupcake Wars all day if I could, I guess TV is an acquired taste. Who knew?


Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Frozen Burritos

Here's the July Edition of my meal swap recipe. Frozen Burritos x 90

This is a combination of several recipes and my own family's taste preference, and they turned out really great! They were seriously kid-approved, and since I used ground turkey rather than beef they were healthier than some other varieties out there. 

I made the following recipe x 9 (for approximately 90 burritos) for my Meal Swap, and once I got my basic recipe down it was a relatively easy assembly line. 

Homemade Frozen Burritos
Makes approximately 11

1 pound ground turkey
1 Cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 (4 oz) can green chilis, diced
1 pkg taco seasoning (or make your own: recipe)
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 Cups black beans (or 1 can, drained and well-rinsed. I made mine from dry beans)
1 can fat-free refried black beans (always choose fat-free, otherwise you're eating lard - YUCK!)
12 large tortillas (get 2 packages of 8, you will be able to find a use for the others, easy)
1 1/2 Cups shredded cheese

Extras: aluminum foil for individually wrapping burritos. KEEP the tortilla bags, 10 finished foil-wrapped burritos will fit very nicely inside a tortilla bag to pop in to the freezer at the end. 

                   THE BEGINNING...

All the ingredients ready for my mega assembly line. I got a deal on 3 lb packages of ground turkey. My original recipe called for taco sauce (on the right side of the picture) but I didn't use any. Rather than be stuck with 4 jars of taco sauce I froze them in to ice cube trays and distributed a baggie of the cubes along with the servings of burritos to my meal swap pals. 

                      STEP 1

Saute the onions, garlic, and green chilis in a skillet with some oil, for 8 minutes or so. The onions won't get very brown due to the extra moisture from the chilis. This is okay. Add the ground turkey and mash it up into the onion/chilis. Continue to mash and stir until the ground turkey is fine and brown. You don't want big chunks, rather a smooth texture. Add the taco seasoning and simmer approx. 10 minutes.

My skillet was WAY not big enough for the 3x batch I was making, I had to do some pot shifting to accommodate it all. The dried black beans are getting a quick soak in the silver pan here. 

                    STEP 2

Transfer the meat mixture into a larger bowl/pot (unless you were smart and started sautéing in a stock pot). Add the softened cream cheese and mix thoroughly (I softened it in the microwave so it was very soft). Add the refried beans and mix thoroughly. Add the whole black beans and mix thoroughly. It should be nice and smooth. Refrigerate the whole thing for easier handling later. 

              STEPS 3 & 4

Get comfortable, especially if you're making in large quantities. Download a nice audio book from the library, and figure out how to arrange the items around you for easy reach. In this shot you can see I was placing the finished tortillas on a baking sheet to flash-freeze them. I changed my mind later, and individually wrapped them in foil because I had so many (and flash freezing 90 burritos takes a long time).

STEP 4: Scoop a half-cup of meat mixture on the bottom half of the tortilla, sprinkle on about 2 Tbsp of cheese. 

          STEP 4 Continued. . .

Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the meat and kind of smoosh it around to get out any air. Fold over the sides, and do one more roll. I had to tuck in some left-over flaps. 

<--This is really a two-handed process hence the not-so-great picture. Also, I used less than a half-cup in this picture so the burrito was smaller (if you use less meat then there will be extra tortilla to roll up, and you'll end up with a chewier end-result. Still tasty. 

             TO FREEZE:

I wrapped the burritos in aluminum foil, and then tucked 10 in an empty tortilla bag and then popped the bag in to the freezer. The tortilla bags are not official freezer-bags but the extra layer of foil should keep the burritos fresh for up to 3 months. If you want to flash freeze them, place the just-made burritos on a baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours, then place in a labeled freezer bag. 

<-- prior to packing the tortilla bags I printed up labels with reheating directions, with a swatch of clear packaging tape on the label to prevent the cold from making the label fall off. 



Oven (for a crispy outside): Bake burritos at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning over half-way through. 
Microwave: for 1:45 minutes on each side. *I like the potential of grabbing a foil-wrapped burrito and popping a sauce cube in a mini-tupperware to take to lunch. 

<--Ox really, really liked these burritos and was fascinated with the whole process. I may have to make mini burritos for his school lunch, to eat cold. 

Librarian that I am I did a bit of research for this recipe, and feel the need to give credit to the useful sites I used. CamillesCasa was very helpful, as was This Recipe on AllRecipes (specifically the comments on it, I love reading what other readers have done), but probably the most useful was Macheesmo's Making Frozen Burritos At Home. I am very interested in incorporating rice into the burrito, so I am sure I'll be trying out his specific recipe later. Thanks!! 


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Like a true bookworm. . .

Game of Thrones - Epic! 
Many apologies for the scarcity of MamaStar posts during the last few months (I am sure my followers have been noticing a decline in their general quality of life due to a lack of blogging) but I have been completely distracted by some truly fantastic discoveries in the world of great books.

I haven't forgotten you, my friends; in fact I have mentally composed many posts and taken many pictures to-be-used but by the time the kiddos go to bed my fingers reach for the next installment in Game of Thrones or Charlaine Harris mystery. Any true bookworm out there knows that when you have a good book in your possession, all other lifely details are just things you do before you have time to read again. For the sake of being a balanced Mama and my growing annoyance with the false sociability of Facebook I'm going to refocus my attention back on my blog:

Facebook:People Magazine::this blog:Jane Eyre
Charlaine Harris - All of Them!! 

(okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but I do know that I'd rather take the time to blog than to get sucked in to Facebook world. . . so here I am).

Without digressing too much, I feel the need to introduce you to the books that I've been reading so hungrily since April or so, but I'm not going to. I may do so later. . . but for now I'm busy making 8 batches of turkey and black bean burritos for my meal swap. You'll have to be satisfied with a few cover shots of my springtime favorite books.

All I can say is my reading personality has taken a turn for the macabre thanks to all the quirky murder mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I'm kind of glad, there are some truly fantastic writers out there that I have missed completely because I've been avoiding this genre, specifically Charlaine Harris' Real Murders series about a slightly mousy librarian who solves crime. Rock it, Aurora Teagarden!!

BookAWocky DONE!! 
Ox has joined me in my book-worm tendencies. . . he already completed his library Book-A-Wocky by reading 20 hours this summer; no small feat for a 6 year old. His reading skills have skyrocketed as a result (I told him he could only fill in wedges for time he read, not if I read to him) but better yet, he now considers himself a good reader which is much more important.

Pretty cool, his school will also reward any kids who bring their completed reading program to school on the first day. Nothing better than being doubly reinforced for a job well done!

Now to find more books about cats, because he has developed a real preference for anything feline. I may have to start stashing the Warrior series by Erin Hunter away now for the future, along with the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky. . . he adored the movie, and might be thankful for some non-cat books at some point. I am keeping my eye out for good books for boys, since there is a definite spin toward girl books out there. We're still in the early reader phase, at least for independent reading, but since Eli easily read me the first few pages of Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid the other day, it's time to start stocking up on chapter books (seriously exciting!)