food · through my camera lens

Cheeseburger “TOTchos”

I always menu plan the night before I go to the grocery store. I really don’t know how people shop without menu planning!

Well this week, we had one night that was unplanned. We just could not come up with something to have as one of our weekend meals. I looked when I went to the grocery store and we looked again yesterday when we were at Costco for something to get for dinner. We did buy pork chops and ground turkey. But, I just did not feel like pork chops tonight. So… I started to think and think  of something to make. I ended up making a recipe off the seat of my pants.

In the past I’ve made “TOTchos”, but I always made them Tex-Mex. I didn’t want that. I have been on an anit-taco meat kick lately. But the concept of TOTchos sounded like a perfect meal for tonight. So I created Cheeseburger TOTchos. (it tastes better than it photographs! )

Cheeseburger TOTchos

  • -ground turkey (or any ground meat you like)
  • -small onion-minced
  •  1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbsp steak sauce
  •  3 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp Steak seasoning (I use McCormick Montreal Blend)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you like on your burgers)
  • -tater tots
  • -EVOO
  • -S&P
  1. Preheat oven and bake tater tots according to the package
  2. In a large cast iron pan (or frying pan of your choice) sauce the onions (seasoned with S&P) in some EVOO
  3. When the onions begin to brown add in ground turkey and cook it while breaking it down into chunks
  4. Add Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, steak seasoning, and ketchup to the meat and continue to stir
  5. I popped this into my second oven at 350 to continue to cook, but you can do it all on the stove top.
  6. When the tots are done, season the tots with S&P
  7. Put the cheese on top of the meat mixture
  8. Put the tots on top of the cheese and pop back in the oven for 3-5 min to melt the cheese

Serve with your favorite tot and burger toppings. I used ketchup, mustard and pickle slices, Colby used ketchup, Blake and Richard didn’t t add anything to theirs.

This was really good. Richard felt it needed a bit more seasoning. I think the tots needed to cook a bit more so they were super crisp. I think the next time I’ll cook them for the longer time on the bag instead of the shorter. I will certainly make it again.

 

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food · through my camera lens

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

So, yesterday when I walked in the house, I decided that I wanted to bake. It wasn’t because I’d had a tough day or anything it just was a need to bake. (granted the world imploded after the kids got home.)

I decided that since I had homemade applesauce from the weekend that I’d use it to make applesauce muffins. I found a recipe for healthy applesauce oat muffins on Tastes Better from Scratch, and decided to alter it.

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Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

  • 1 cup applesauce (I used homemade)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 Tablespoons butter , melted 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Microplane a few swipes of nutmeg

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375. line muffin pan with liner or spray with pam
  2. Stir together wet ingredients in one bowl (applesauce, milk, egg, butter and sugar)
  3. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
  4. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture until just mixed (do not over mix)
  5. scoop into muffin liners
  6. bake 15-20 min or until a toothpick comes out clear
  7. cool completely
life · through my camera lens

Deck the halls with Ghosts and Pumpkins

We got up this morning with the plan to go out for breakfast. Richard had requested a few weeks ago to go to Kelly O’s for a cheat meal. Colby had asked for pancakes and bacon when we were creating our meal plan. So, this morning we went to Kelly O’s for breakfast. Colby had his chocolate chip pancakes, Blake had a ham and cheese omelette, Richard had an omelette with pretty much everything in it and I had a breakfast burrito.

Then off for hair cuts we went. Richard, Blake and I got hair cuts. Colby didn’t since they really cut his short last time (2 months ago) and his bangs just grew to the length that he usually asks for them to be cut.

When we got home, Richard and I tackled the lawn work. When we were done we decided to put out the outside Halloween decorations. Now the house is done!

The boys headed to the park and I decided to camp out on the couch and catch up on some of my tv shows. I don’t often have time on my own to sit down and watch tv anymore. This is not a big thing, but it was nice to have that bit of time today.

 

Education · life · through my camera lens · Uncategorized

Orientation Day

Today was the day! It was the day when my K-Prep kiddos got the opportunity to see our classroom for the first time. It was also the opportunity for their parents to come in and see where they will be learning and playing.

I had to give the school’s Orientation power point, which meant I was speed talking. I’m also not used to having the children in the room when I have to give these types of presentations to the parents. This meant my voice had to get louder and louder to talk over the children who were working on a quick project in the back of the room.

Oh well… it is done. Onto tomorrow our first day of class. I should have 17 of my 19 students tomorrow, but 3 did not show up today and at least one parent told me they will be on vacation next week, of course I totally forgot who that was 3 minutes after they told me. Information overload!

As promised, here are a few pictures of my classroom.

family · life · through my camera lens

Painting, yard work and working out

Life has been so busy lately.

Richard and I finished painting the basement! We painted the media area the dark green and then the stairwell the light area.

Saturday, Richard and I spend about 3 hours working outside. We seeded, fertalized and did a bit of other work on the yard. We replanted 3 plants that outgrew their pots. We also made 2 new spider plants out of my spider babies and a new pothos plant with clippings from Colby’s plant. Then we took on the way back. Richard got out the brush cutter and I took the large loppers and we went to work cleaning out lots and lots of brush. It’s crazy when you realize how much you cut, and then look at how much more needs to still be done back there. But hey, at least we made a dent.

We went on a bike ride/hike yesterday.  It was nice to get out on the trails after a long busy week. I ended up hiking just over 3 miles.

Today we started our FOURTH week of Liift4 on Beachbody. I can definitely feel myself getting stronger and am able to lift heavier weights. I won’t say that I’ve seen a ton of difference in my clothes or on the scale, but I feel a lot better getting up, working out and focusing on eating healthier. I am not following their food plan exactly. I am more focused on eating healthier instead of working on measuring out portions and counting the amount of each type of food I eat. I always feel that heath, fitness and nutrition need to be natural parts of your life not forced pieces if you are going to keep up the work. I know the fact that I’m lifting will burn calories. I know that the HIIT parts is the best way to get cardio. I also know that eating more veggies and lean protein will fuel my body in a healthy way.  Now I make all that knowledge work for me!

 

family · life · through my camera lens

Kayaking

Since moving to PA, we have been trying to get out and do a variety of outdoor things with the boys. The took mountain biking lessons, we’ve gone hiking, they learned to sled, ice skate and make snowmen. We are enjoying the county park that is located about 3 miles from our house. We love that we have 3075 acres of nature to explore and enjoy.

Out latest adventures was kayaking. We have always seen tons of people out kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on the lake in North Park. We often talked about getting out on the water and trying out kayaking. Saturday was the day we got out. We went through LLBean Outdoor Discovery School

. (We went with them on 2 hikes last year) Our feeling was to get with an instructor who would help all of us begin to understand the techniques of kayaking.

Each of the boys was able to paddle their own kayak, which was a big plus. None of us were perfect, but we had fun. Colby struggles in the beginning, but Richard helped him muddle through the basics and then his paddle stroke became near perfect. Blake on the other hand just went at it. His stroke is a bit sloppy but that doesn’t stop him from going.

For me I found turning to be the most challenging, part, but I’m getting there.

Richard has the most water craft experience, so this was a lot easier for him. (he is the one who had the camera, hence the picture of me)

While on the water we saw lots and lots of Canadian Geese, they are starting to practice for their migration flight. We saw Harry the Great Blue Heron and a snapper turtle who decided to pop up right in the middle of all of our kayaks.

food · reviews · through my camera lens

chicken salsa

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Chicken salsa is a recipe I created years ago. It started as a quick recipe of just chopping chicken up, popping it into a skillet. After the chicken cooks a bit, I would add in salsa and let it finish cooking. Then I would put it on top of couscous and top it with cheese.

Over time I’ve made this in the crock pot or even in the pressure cooker.  With both of these cooking methods I would just cut the chicken into bite size pieces and put the salsa in to start. When you do it in the pressure cooker, it makes it more like shredded chicken which is perfect for nachos!

Well, since we have been working on adding more veggies into our meals I decided to revamp salsa chicken.

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Salsa chicken

  • 1 package of chicken thighs
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cubanelle peppers
  • 3/4 stocks of celery
  • salsa
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • S&P
  1. put pressure cooker on high
  2. trim up chicken thighs, add to crock pot
  3. dice up onion, peppers and celery, add to crock pot
  4. add spices to your taste preferences
  5. add 1/2 jar of salsa
  6. put the lid on and cook for 3-4 hour on high

I served it over farro as well as couscous to serve this over. Colby added cheddar cheese to his chicken salsa. We ate the WHOLE crock pot worth of chicken salsa. We did have farro and couscous leftovers, but I’ll take that. I enjoyed the increase of veggies and felt it added to the taste as well as the health levels.

 

Education · family · life · through my camera lens

First day of school

Image result for first day of school

This has been a great summer for us. Hershey, trains, mountain biking and lots more. But that time of year has come: back to school.

P1000335Today is the boys’ first day of school. They were up and ready to go. While there may have been a bit of nervous energy, they were excited to get back to it. Both boys enjoy school. They enjoy learning and exploring knowledge. Blake thrives off the routine of the school year. Colby was psyched to go see his friends and find new ones too.

It’s hard to believe that Blake is starting 6th grade. Sixth grade is such a huge transformation grade. This is the time where kids go from being kids to being a younger version of their adult self. Yes, I know they still aren’t even teens, but trust me this is the year that so much growing and maturing in personality and maturity happens.

Colby is starting 5th grade. While the change isn’t as dramatic from 4th to 5th there is stillP1000337 a change.

This will be Blake’s last year at the school he is in now. He will have 4 teachers instead of 2. This is the school’s way of getting them ready for middle school. Next year the boys will be in two different schools, they haven’t had that since Blake was in K and Colby in preK.

I can only hope that they learn, grown and mature. That they take on challenges. That they push themselves to expand their knowledge base and learn. I want them to make mistakes, failure is a good thing… it is the means to growth. I want them to hold their heads up high and know that they’ve got this…. no matter what this is!

life · through my camera lens

More painting! Basement this time

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, then you know that we moved into our house in Sept. Yep, it is almost a year since we moved into our house. We have lived in PA for over a year now.  We built the house we are living in and I will tell you one thing about building a house… builder paint sucks! Plus putting a coat of paint on the walls is a simple way to transform a house into a home.

Before we moved into the house, I took a week and moved all the kitchen items into the house and painted the boys rooms. I did Colby’s room in a fish/ocean theme (blue with a painted tank with sticker fish), and Blake’s as an American sports theme (cream walls with a burgandy stripe). (Click on the boys’ names to see the posts and pictures of their rooms.) We wanted their rooms to be done before we moved in the furniture and it was settled before the boys moved into the house.

Richard then picked out a gray/silvery color to paint his office. Again we wanted it done before all the furniture was settled and into the room. This room was done after we moved in, but before all was settled.

I then moved on and painted the downstairs bathroom (hunter green) and then the boy’s bathroom (slate gray). Then Richard and I painted the kitchen, morning room and living room.

This weekend we tackled our next project, the basement. When we built the house we had a majority of the basement finished as part of the building process. We already use this room a lot. It is where we have our larger tv, most of the boys stuff (including all the Lego sets), all the games, the gaming systems and so much more. In the future we plan on getting a pool table, dart board and build in a wet bar. So, this paint job needed to be fun!

We went with two shades of green. The darker green is even named “billiard” green. Richard thought I was crazy when I explained how I wanted to use the two greens in the room, but when we were done with the combo wall he agreed that it looks good.

We aren’t quite done yet. We need to paint the stairwell the lighter green color. Then we will paint darker green in the area where we have the tv as well as the wall the bar will eventually go on. (pretty much any way you see beige in the pictures still needs to be painted)

We are almost done hanging the shelving unit I built for the Lego bins. We will also use this to display some of the built Lego models and possibly put games on as well… we will see once we get everything moved onto the shelves.

I say this is a great start! I’m ready for some organization down there to make it feel more functional.

family · life · through my camera lens

Carnegie Science Center

Yesterday Richard took the day off to spend some time together as a family. We had been trying to find time to head into the Carnegie Science Center, but hadn’t managed yet. Right now they have a special display called the Art of the Brick.

We started by going through The Art of the Brick. This is the art of Nathan Sawaya. He creates and recreates art using Lego blocks. Colby was excited to see this. Before we walked in he informed me that this was going to be his career, but he wants to create abstract Lego Art.

We walked through and looked at the art and sculpture recreations. It was pretty impressive to see how close he was able to get to the original art. The next sections were pieces he created on his own. These too were very creative. When you went through this whole area you then went upstairs where they had a variety of stations with Lego blocks for people to build their own creations. They had a variety of suggested items, but you could pretty much do whatever you wanted.

Then we went into the science museum. This was a decent science center. There was a variety of hands on activities for the children to interact and learn from. I’m not sure I was impressed with the quantity or quality of these activities. (I guess I’m a bit of a museum snob). I’m not sure you would want to go back to this museum on a regular basis, but it certainly was worth going at least one, or once in a blue moon.

They we went outside to the submarine that they have docked on the river. You are able to go through the USS Requin submarine with your admission to the science center (the Art of the Brick was a separate cost, but everything else we did was included with the museum price). We walked through the submarine and realized that this was a very tight place to live for weeks at a time.

We then went to the Highmark SportsWorks. This was nothing like I expected it to be. There are 30 sports related activities. There were long lines at most of it and many were just ok. We did not wait in line for the ropes course, rock wall, human yo-yo or any of the ones that had long lines. They swung a bat, raced, tested their reflexes and a few other things. I’m glad this was included in the price I would not have wanted to pay a separate price for this.