Crock Pot Greek Chicken

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Authentic Simplicity!Crock Pot Greek Chicken #freezercooking #crockpot #cleaneating #chicken

This is one of my go-to recipes (if I have such a thing… that means I’ve made it more than once!) from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, that crockpot classic, “Fix it and Forget it“. All kinds of crockpot recipes and variations for everything from roast beef to mac and cheese to cake.

The one I picked today was called “Greek Chicken”. I don’t know what makes it Greek, except for maybe the oregano? At any rate, it’s a good basic recipe with few ingredients, but reliable, and, of course, tasty. Can’t go wrong with chicken, oregano and olive oil!

Note: You’ll want to use dried oregano in this recipe because it provides the most flavor. However, if you have fresh oregano from the garden, you can add a little extra of it (maybe 1 TBSP chopped) towards the end of the cooking time.

Crock Pot Greek Chicken and Potatoes #crockpot #chicken #cleaneating

The potatoes are delicious all by themselves! They alone are reason enough to make this recipe.

Crock Pot Greek Chicken and Potatoes #crockpot #chicken #cleaneating

This post was originally published in 2009. I’ve updated it and included a printable recipe card and made the instructions on this popular recipe a little more clear.

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

5 Fresh Ways to Use Fresh Mint #garden #mint #cleaneatingGot a mint plant (or two) that’s going crazy? Not sure what to do with it?

I hear ya! Mint is famous for flourishing whether or not you want it to, which can be good (Hey, it’s yummy! And good for you!) and bad (There’s only so much mint one person can handle at a time.). It’s kind of tricky trying to find different ways to use fresh mint when it’s coming out of your ears. I’ve done all the usual things with my fresh mint so far:

All of those things get old, though, after a while, so I put myself on a mission to find some fun and creative ways to use my mint plant. I’m looking forward to trying out these five fresh ideas for my fresh mint!

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

  1. Fresh Mint Iced Coffee – You know me, I’m always up for a good cuppa joe. So much the better if it’s made with an unexpected twist and an unusual ingredient. (Remember my Lavender Iced Coffee?)
  2. I never in my life would have thought to put fresh mint into cookies or cupcakes, but these bloggers totally went there! I’d like to try some Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies or Fresh Mint Chocolate Cupcakes!
  3. And while I’m baking, I think I shall have to whip up some Cranberry Mint Scones, which not only use fresh mint, but fresh cranberries, too! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  4. It’s admittedly not that odd for baked goods to incorporate a fresh mint flavor, but savory foods? This Moroccan Spiced Potato Pizza doesn’t have any cheese… but it does have fresh mint!
  5. Another yummy-sounding savory option is this Honey Mint Glazed Chicken. I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t already prepped all my chicken in marinades before putting it in the freezer!

 

How to Wash Produce

How to Wash Produce #ygbt #oams #cleanfood Don’t you just love a tip that saves you time and money… and is good for you in the process? You can’t beat that, right?! Well, that’s the sort of tip I’ve got for you today.

  • I’ll save you TIME by showing you how to wash your produce all at once (and if you only go grocery shopping once a month, it saves you even more time).
  • I’ll save you MONEY by showing you how washing your produce all at once will make it last longer and stay fresher.
  • It’s GOOD FOR YOU because washing your produce and having fresher produce means fewer pesticides entering your body and more nutrition.

It’s a win-win all around, my friend! Here’s how to wash produce in big batches to save you time and money.

How to Wash Your Produce (and save time and money in the process)

First of all, I want to highly recommend that you go grocery shopping once a month if you’re really interested in saving yourself significant time and money. It might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s totally doable and it works. You’ll find all the info you need to get started in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.

Once you’ve gone on your monthly shopping trip, you’ll have a mountain of produce that you want to last as long as possible. There are a lot of ways to do that, and many of them are discussed in the book, but one of the best ways is simply to wash all the produce before you put it away. So pile up all the produce on the counter next to the sink, and then get started!

1. Fill the sink with water and some vinegar.

You can also add a couple drops of Thieves oil for added cleaning power! You don’t need a huge amount of vinegar; I just add a few generous splashes and call it good.

Place your produce gently in the water. Be sure not to put things like apples and blackberries in at the same time, because that could be seriously bad news for the blackberries. Depending on how much produce you have, you may need to do several batches.

Let the produce sit in the water for a minute or two.

2. Rinse the produce in a colander.

Remove the produce from the sink and place in a colander. If you have a double sink, you can rinse it right away; otherwise, you might need to wait to rinse until you’ve run all the produce through the vinegar bath.

Be sure to rinse the produce very thoroughly to get off all the remaining pesticides and bacteria, as well as all the vinegar.

3. Place the produce on a towel to dry.

Set out some towels on your countertops and put the produce on the towels in a single layer to dry. I sometimes leave it on the countertops overnight, depending on the time I get started with it, but generally it will take only a couple hours.

Carefully store the produce in the appropriate spot in the fridge or pantry.

This whole process takes 10-15 minutes plus drying time and saves you a lot of money in the long run! You’ll find that your produce lasts significantly longer when you wash it this way before storing it, which means less produce dumped in the trash. And, of course, your produce will be cleaner and fresher for you when you go to eat it, which is good for your health as well.

Helping you save money on your groceries is one of my favorite things to do ever, so I’m super excited about my latest project. I’m working on updating and slightly revising the ebook I mentioned earlier, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. It’s going to be an even better resource to help you keep your money in your pocket while purchasing the highest quality  of food possible for your family. Once the second edition of YGBT is released, I’ll be working on a spiral-bound print copy as well! And on top of all that, pretty soon after that I’ll be releasing an eCourse that personally walks you through the process of saving money on your groceries. I’m not a squee-in’ kinda girl normally, but I’m so excited about what I’ve got in store for you that I’m about to do just that! So make sure you sign up for email updates so you know when all of this brand new awesomeness is released. Here’s to healthy food… and more money in your pocket!

 

Better than the Box – Chocolate Pudding

This post was originally published in 2009.  Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding One of my main goals on this blog is to prove to anyone who doesn’t believe me that cooking healthy foods from scratch is neither difficult nor time-consuming. Too many people think that cooking is either a great mystery they could never solve, or so time-consuming they would always be stuck in the kitchen. Instead, they rely on boxes (or bags or jars, or packages, you get the idea) that are quick and easy, but expensive and chock-full of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients.

There’s a better way!

You don’t have to be a gourmet and spend hours over your creations in order to serve healthy delicious meals to your family. So throw away the box and make something from scratch for a change. If I can do it, you can do it!

For example, chocolate pudding. For a long time, I never even ate pudding because I didn’t want to use the mix found in a box, but I thought that home-made pudding was too time-consuming and difficult. Then my diet was forcibly changed because of my son’s allergies: there were so many foods I couldn’t eat, that I began to think outside the box (literally!) for foods that I could eat. I thought I had kissed chocolate good-bye for a while, until I found an allergen-free recipe for chocolate pudding. And I realized that it was so quick and easy, I could make it any time I needed a chocolate fix.

Once I discovered that, I branched out and made all kinds of pudding: butterscotch, vanilla, coconut, etc. I used them to make trifles and parfaits for desserts to serve to guests. And the best part was, it was every bit as easy as using a box!

But not as QUICK, you say. Almost as quick, I say. It took me approximately 10 minutes, start to finish. Anybody can find 10 minutes in their day to fix themselves a chocolate treat!

I thought home-made pudding was hard, but it’s actually quite EASY. What makes it difficult is using an egg, because the egg(s) has to be tempered, or gradually heated so that it doesn’t cook before it’s thoroughly mixed in. That problem is easily avoided by not using an egg! You’ll find most pudding recipes require an egg, but as I discovered, vegans and food-allergic folks know that pudding without an egg is every bit as good. An egg adds richness to pudding. So if you want your pudding a little richer, go ahead and fuss with the egg. But if you just want some pudding, forget the egg. You won’t miss it!

It’s CHEAPer than buying the box. I bet you don’t believe me because those boxes are pretty cheap. Aside from the milk (which is not included in the box anyway), the ingredients in this chocolate pudding cost less than $0.40, even if you don’t buy them on sale.

It may not be HEALTHY, but it’s certainly healthier than what’s in that box. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? Sugar, modified food starch, cocoa, disodium phosphate, natural & artificial flavors, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, monoglyceride, diglycerides, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Artificial Colors, citric acid, BHA. Yum. I don’t even know why they need all those food colorings, because, as Matthew McConaughey says in “The Wedding Planner”, “Chocolate’s already brown.”

Have I convinced you yet?



Once it’s reached the right consistency, remove from the heat and add the 100% chocolate bar and vanilla. At this point, you can get creative and try adding different things. For example, chocolate chips instead of the chocolate bar. Or different flavorings instead of vanilla. I have also used a mixture of coffee and milk to make a mocha pudding. Mmmm, that was yummy.

Pour the pudding into serving dishes and place in refrigerator to cool. If you plan on serving to guests, you may want to consider placing some plastic wrap tightly on the surface of the pudding while it cools to prevent a skin from forming. I don’t bother when it’s just for myself, or if I’m going to stir it up and use it in something else. Garnish as desired:

Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding Sharing at Try a New Recipe Tuesday

 

A Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

**This post was originally published in 2009.  Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal Summertiiiiimmmeee… and the livin’ is eeeaaasssyyyy…

Fish are jumpin’ … and the cotton is high…

And I don’t feel like cookin’….

Oh wait, that’s not part of the song. But it should be! Who wants to cook on a hot summer day? Not me! So I decided NOT to cook today, but I still felt like I should feed my family, so I compromised: Cold Plates!

An Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

This is one of those ideas that’s just so brilliant, I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner! All one has to do is assemble a variety of cold, fresh foods, make it pretty and put it on the table. Presto, Change-o, Dinner! Simple as that.

I used some cold ham slices as the main portion of the meal and augmented them with some scoops of tuna salad. Then I added in some various fresh fruits and veggies, some cheese for my DH, and some pickles. A dollop of honey mustard served as a dipping sauce for the ham. Usually, bread of some sort is served with a cold plate, but I had none, so I offered crackers on the side.

The nice thing about these cold plates is that I could customize them to our different dietary needs. Here’s my plate with strawberries and unpeeled apples and apricots:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal
Here’s DH’s plate with cheese and peeled apples instead:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealEven our Certain Little Someone had his own cold plate (not that he ate it all! He was mostly interested in the watermelon and sweet potato fries!):

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealSharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Tasty Tuesday

3 Health & Wellness Books Every Mom Should Read

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Authentic Simplicity!Health and Wellness Books Every Mom Should Read #chc #summerbookclub“Nurse” should be on every mom’s resume because it’s a large part of our mommy job, isn’t it? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the requisite degree behind the title, therefore we sometimes lack the necessary knowledge to fulfill our role.

But there’s no need to go to school and get an “RN” after your name – many, many books are out there that will help you nurse your children back to health when they’re sick, and better yet, keep them healthy all year long!

My favorite books about health and wellness focus on the nutritional aspect of things, because I believe that what we eat is key to our overall health and well-being. If you’d like to broaden your understanding of our food and where it comes from, I highly recommend the following books and authors:

1. Michael Pollan

Ok, so this is one author with many books, and not just one book. If I had to narrow it down, I’d pick “In Defense of Food: The Eater’s Manifesto“, wherein he introduces his mantra, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I always recommend Michael Pollan to people who have questions about food and nutrition, because he’s a journalist who is not afraid to dig down deep to the truth. He presents the evidence he finds, draws his conclusions, and invites you to draw yours. I find him to be the most balanced author on nutrition, without swinging to one extreme or another (for example, veganism vs Paleo).

2. The Maker’s Diet

This book was pivotal for me in terms of changing my approach to “healthy” food. I realized that at least half of what was in my refrigerator and pantry wasn’t even remotely healthy when I first read this book almost 10 years ago. While I don’t agree with all of the conclusions Jordan Rubin draws in The Maker’s Diet, I do believe his main points are all accurate and his diet is one everyone should consider adopting at one level or another.

3. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils

Anyone who wants to make use of essential oils in maintaining their family’s health will find this book invaluable. Kurt Schnaubelt, chemist and aromatherapist, is one of the leading experts on essential oils in America, and in The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, he clears up all the confusion surrounding oils with solid science and historical information.

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 


Sharing at Grounded & Surrounded

Fruit Punch Ice Pops

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatOh the dog days of summer! Great for lying in the shade on a sultry day and enjoying an ice pop and hoping it helps cool you down.

Just not those nasty ones that are full of food dyes, fake colors, nasty sugars, and other assorted ickyness. They’re so easy to make yourself that there’s no need to resort to such.

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatHonestly? Making an ice pop is simply a matter of freezing juice in a lickable format. So if you have popsicle molds and juice, you’re in business. Even if you don’t have popsicle molds, you can make do with cups and craft sticks. The juice is kind of essential, though, no getting out of that one.

I have these Zoku Mini Pop molds which I actually bought at Michaels’ with a 40% off coupon, but you can also get them from Amazon with free shipping if you have Prime. They’re the perfect size for little mouths and quick snacks!

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatThe Boyz created this recipe together as a Summer Camp at Home activity: they each chose 2 kinds of fruit and I determined the quantities. It turned out to taste exactly like fruit punch!

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreat

Sharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Try a New Recipe Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday

3 Authors For You to Consider

3 Authors for the Christian Reader to Consider #chc #summerbookclub

 

For a long time, I didn’t read any fiction by mainstream (i.e., secular, non-Christian) authors because it seemed like every one I picked up was rife with profanity, gratuitous sex scenes, and and immorality. Per the wise instructions found in Philippians 4:8, I just don’t really feel a need to fill my mind with that junk; I therefore erred on the side of caution and just avoided secular authors altogether.

Gradually, though, I’ve come to discover a few authors who are not, as far as I know, Christian, and do not write for Christian publishers, but whose books are fairly clean and even more importantly, honor important Judeo-Christian values such as marriage, family, loyalty, and selflessness.

These are the authors I know and can recommend, although you will have to judge them for yourself. Also, I can’t vouch for every single book by these authors because I haven’t read every single one. And if you have any author recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them!

1. Patricia Veryan

If you enjoy Christian author Julie Klassen’s work, you will probably also enjoy Patricia Veryan.  Patricia Veryan specialized in novels set in the Georgian or Regency eras of English history. She was one of the forerunners of the popular Regency genre, following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Georgette Heyer (another author I can recommend). While the Regency genre is full of a lot of trite and pointless fluff, Veryan’s novels are anything but.

While Veryan’s books are first and foremost romance novels, they are also well-researched, historically accurate books filled with period details of the Jacobite Rebellions in early 18th century England. There is no profanity in her books, aside from the occasional “d–n”, and there are absolutely no sex scenes. There’s not even any implied pre-marital or extra-marital sex except in one book that I can think of (not my favorite of hers for that reason).

What I love most about Veryan’s novels is the central theme of honor. Whatever else you may say about the morality of Regency England, their code of honor was rigid and all men were expected to abide by it. As portrayed in Veryan’s novels, even young boys were trained diligently from a young age to abide by this stringent code, which regulated how the men treated each other and how they treated the women in their lives.

While their code of honor deviated from the one we find in Scripture, at its core, it insisted on a selfless life spent protecting one’s family – especially the women of the family – and one’s country. The men in Veryan’s stories are truly men of honor who live courageously and bravely in service to their country and their families.  Many of them exhibit the quality that Christ exhorts husbands to have in relation to their wives: a willingness to sacrifice even their life for the sake of their loved ones. It’s this old-fashioned chivalry that draws me back to Veryan’s novels again and again, while society around me  unravels daily in a quest to satisfy self.

Veryan has written quite a few novels, and it’s difficult to narrow them down to my absolute favorite, but if I had to pick one it would be “Love Alters Not. That’s my favorite because it’s side-splittingly hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny, plus the hero in the story is one of Veryan’s best and most honorable. It’s a good place to start with Veryan books!

Oh, one note of importance: for whatever reason, the publishers of these books decided to put racy bodice-ripper covers on all the paperback versions… don’t ask me why! Many Veryan fans have pondered over this discrepancy to no avail. Truly a case of not judging a book by its cover!

2. Nicholas Sparks

Fans of Karen Kingsbury will appreciate the homey, family-centered romances by Nicholas Sparks. And if you’ve seen the movies based on his books… don’t be put off by them! Hollywood twisted most of them into something very different from what Sparks actually wrote, so, as usual, the books are much better than the movies.

As with Veryan, there are a few “d–n”-s sprinkled throughout Sparks’ books, but no graphic sex scenes, although many of them do have “fadeouts”. In particular,  ”A Walk to Remember” and “The Last Song”  are pretty squeaky clean.

What sets Sparks apart from other contemporary authors is his emphasis on family and committed relationships. Although he’s definitely a romance novelist (kind of sappy and often tear-inducing), he idealizes in his stories a committed kind of love that goes far beyond the infatuation and attraction that most love stories are made of. Many of his novels feature an elderly couple that has stood the test of time and weathered many storms together; any author that honors committed marriage relationships is automatically bumped up a few notches in my opinion!

My absolute favorite Sparks novel is the above-mentioned “A Walk to Remember” (Which, actually, is one movie that they actually got right! For the most part.): it’s sappy, and it’s so sad you’ll need to read it with a box of tissues close at hand, but it is so good!

3. Kate Morton

Kate Morton is a new author for me – I’ve only actually read one and a half books of hers, but so far, I like what I’ve read! I’ve browsed through tons of reviews of her books online and it seems like she is frequently listed as a “clean” author; so even though I can’t personally vouch for all her books, she comes well recommended to me.

Like Nicholas Sparks, you can expect an occasional “d–n”, but that’s about it. She implies “off-scene” intimate activity, but doesn’t describe it so there are no sex scenes.

Francine Rivers is probably the most comparable Christian author to Kate Morton, in terms of scope, historic elements, and touches of mystery. Jamie Langston Turner also comes to mind. Morton likes to tell the historic background story of contemporary people, switching back and forth from modern to historic scenes and casts. You have to pay close attention to the dates noted at the beginning of each chapter, or you might get lost, but I love how this approach portrays vividly the domino effect of consequences from choices made by one generation to the next. I also love how the people in Morton’s stories are very ordinary people, but they live(d) extraordinary lives: it makes you think about the fact that every single person we meet has a story to tell but we rarely stop to listen to their stories. (Job 8:8)

The House at Riverton is the first book of Morton’s that I read, and I was glued to it from beginning to end, trying to figure out the mystery that was hinted at throughout. If you’ve watched and enjoyed the Downton Abbey series, you’ll love the historic setting of this book, as its very similar in style and feel. I’m always fascinated by the rapidly changing times of the early twentieth century, and Morton captures them vividly. I’m currently reading The Forgotten Garden, which is set in Morton’s native Australia, and has a compelling plot about a girl who was abandoned and left to sail on her own halfway around the world. It grapples with the heady topic of a person’s sense of self – their identity – and how it is formed and shaped, and how it can be altered by changed circumstances.

Other Clean Authors You Might Like

Here are a few other places where you can find suggestions for clean authors:

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 


Bust Summer Boredom with Summer Camp at Home

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids

For the past two years, I’ve been teaching in a summer camp at the school where I am a preschool teacher. Since I taught in summer camp, my kids tagged along with me and benefited greatly from the structured environment and the regular academic review (plus lots of time outside and plenty of fun activities).

This year, however, I’m not teaching summer camp in any official capacity… but I don’t want my kids to get bored! Neither do I want them to forget EVERYthing they learned in school this past year, so I feel that they need to be regularly reviewing basic concepts. Summer camp is the easiest way to address both problems, but I can’t exactly afford to sign them up for any programs available in our area.

Enter Summer Camp at Home! Now mind you, despite the fact that I teach for a living and lesson planning is actually one of my favorite parts… well, summer is summer. Ain’t nobody got time for that planning stuff. So this is my fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, let-somebody-else-do-the-planning… and-the-cleanup… kind of summer camp.

Sound good to you? Yeah, thought so.

Here’s how we fill our time, have fun, and get in a little bit of education, too (while still leaving plenty of time to relax), without hardly any work on my part:Summer Camp at Home #summer #summercampathome

1.Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic

It’s so important to keep these basic concepts fresh in the mind throughout the summer, and it’s also super easy! It only takes about half an hour each day to do some simple worksheets, reading practice, and flash card review. I love to do creative, play-focused activities with my children and students, but in my opinion, these 3 subjects require plain old hard work (repetition and regular practice in applying the skills) in order to truly master them.

Try a few of these options:

  • Preschool and lower elementary grades can take advantage of the dollar store’s selection of basic workbooks. They’ll especially love the ones with Disney or other cartoon themes! My kids do a combination of phonics/spelling (depending on their level) and math workbooks every day, one page in each workbook. I’ve also picked up age-appropriate workbooks at their levels in thrift stores and at yard sales.
  • Free printables abound online! My K3-General Subjects Pinterest board has some great links on it; check out my othe
  • r Pinterest boards for more subject-specific printables.
  • Flash cards for many basic topics are also available at the dollar store: numbers, shapes, colors, letters, math facts, and more. You can use these flash cards to play lots of different games, as well.
  • Various websites offer customizable worksheets so your little summer students can focus on areas specific to their needs. Twisty Noodle is great for beginning writers, while the AtoZ Teachers website offers a handwriting worksheet generator for older writers. Math Fact Cafe is a great resource for creating math worksheets on any level. Starfall is one of the best online resources for teaching and developing reading skills.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids2. Science & History Field Trips

Do you have any nature centers in your area? Trails to hike? Public gardens, zoos, animal parks, farms you can visit? All of these qualify for science study, and give your kids great hands-on experiences without a lot of planning or prep on your part. Many of these types of places often have special programs for kids that are cheap or free and provide an even more educational experience. If you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks, most cities have children’s museums and science museums with lots of great hands-on exhibits (and a relief from the summer heat).

My county (Fairfax County in VA) has a special program for kids that rewards them for visiting 8 of their 12 parks and nature centers, and many national/state parks have similar programs. Check out what your local state and national park programs have to offer!

I also plan to take my kids to nearby farms to pick fruit that’s in season throughout the summer, which adds another element to their science (and health and nutrition) education.

In addition to a wealth of science opportunities, we also live surrounded by Civil War battlefields and other historic areas. We also live within driving distance of Colonial era historic sites, like Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown and the like. On top of that, we can head into DC or Baltimore, MD (Fort McHenry!) anytime we want for a field trip as good as any they’d encounter anywhere! For those of you who live in the Metropolitan DC area (or are planning a trip this way), check out Specialicious for local deals on various activities. Also try Certifikid, which is available in 10 different cities around the country, and offers discount deals on all kinds of family-friendly activities, including local historic sites and more. Dealize is a great resource to help you find local group deals wherever you live.

My plan is to take my kids on two field trips each week – one science based, the other history based. You can fit it into your schedule however it works best for you!

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids3. Exercise

We play outside a lot, too, which has tons of obvious benefits besides being just plain old fun. For hot days, sidewalk chalk and bubbles under the shade are the way to go, at least until evening comes and we can run around a bit in the cooler air.

We also invest in an annual pass to the water park just down the street from us – it’s a wonderful way to cool down and have fun throughout the summer, and adds a vacation feel to our busy summer.

If you live near a Bowl America, consider their Summer Blast Pass, which offers free bowling games to kids all summer long. All you have to pay for is shoe rental.

Otherwise, we opt out of sports programs in the summer, preferring to keep our schedule on the slower side. You might find, though, that your little summer campers benefit from more organized sports programs – swimming lessons, perhaps, or participating in fun runs.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids4. Arts & Crafts

If you’re not very artsy – see me raising my hand?- and/or you dislike cleaning up a mess made by little artisans – raising my hand again – then consider checking out local arts and crafts stores for their kids’ programs in the summer. Here are some that we’re going to try:

  • Michael’s has a kids’ art class program called Passport to Imagination with different themed activities each week. One class costs $5, 3 classes are only $12.  Joanns has a program called “Little Makers” with different classes in various arts and crafts. Most of them are geared towards children 8 and older, some are designed for younger children, ages 5 and up. Also, most of their classes cost, some $20 or more, some $10 or less. If you have AC Moore near you, they have “Summer Fun Wednesday” classes from 1-3pm each Wednesday.
  • Home Depot and Lowe’s also have free kids’ workshops throughout the year.
  • The Lego Store also has a monthly Mini Model workshop where each attendee can build and take home a mini model. You have to register for these right away, though, as they are quite popular!
  • If cooking is more your thing, and you have one near by, try Williams-Sonoma’s free Junior Chef classes.
  • Microsoft stores and Apple stores have kids’ programs (ages 8 and up) for the more technologically-minded.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids5. Fun & Relaxation

What’s summer without fun? I mean the kind of fun that doesn’t have any other purpose! I check out Facebook groups, local blogs and websites for links to free and cheap fun summer activities. Local libraries are also a great source of fun kids programs in the summer and all year long.

Here are some of the fun things we’ll be doing this summer:

  • Free/Cheap kids’ movies from several different local theaters. Regal Entertainment is one that offers $1 kids movies once or twice a week throughout the summer.
  • Downtime at home: we don’t have a lot of time during the school year to watch TV or play video games, so I let my kids have some free downtime during the summer to do those things.
  • Playdates: We’ve had a couple already and have scheduled a couple more. We are especially looking forward to spending more time with friends we don’t get to see as often during the school year.
  • We also hope to schedule a few day or weekend trips throughout the summer, just to relax and get away and “feel” like vacation.
  • And finally, when my husband and I go on a missions trip to … wait for it… Arkansas!… my in-laws will be watching The Boyz for a week, so they get a whole full week with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, & Cousins!

So how do you do summer at home? Do you continue school? Try to maintain structure to one extent or another, or just let the lazy summer days ride on by? 

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Copycat Panera Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

This post was originally published in June, 2009.  Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad I haven’t blogged in a few days because we went up to Lancaster, PA to visit with some family and have a short mini-vacation. Vacations are always fun, but, especially when it’s such a short vacation, it’s sometimes hard to get back home and go back to the daily grind. So I decided to bring some of my vacation home with me.

I decided to bring home with me some yummy food I ate while on vacation. Of course, I couldn’t actually bring back the food itself, since it would have gotten quite yucky waiting to be put in my fridge (ew!) so I just brought back the ideaof the food I enjoyed so I could recreate it at home.The first dish I enjoyed was the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera. What I like about their chicken salad is that the apples are dried, not fresh.  Not your leathery, smushy kind of dried, but more like an apple chip dried. The combination of the sweet crunchy apple blended so perfectly with the other flavors in the salad, that it was super delicious!Unfortunately, the only dried apples I had on hand at home were the leathery, smushy variety which simply would not do for my purposes. So I set out to make myself some apple chips.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

First, I cored an apple and sliced off the ends. I could have peeled it as well, but I opted to leave the peel on for color. Besides, the peel was left on in the Panera salad, and since I was attempting to recreate my vacation, I had to follow it as closely as possible.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad
Then I sliced the apple into thin, even slices (unfortunately, some of them I sliced a little TOO thin) and soaked them in lemon water for a few minutes, to limit browning. This step is not necessary unless you want them to be as white as possible.

drying apple chips in ovenThen I lined a baking sheet with wax paper, greased the wax paper and laid the apple slices out in a single layer, with plenty of room between slices. I put this in my oven, on the lowest setting possible (which happens to be 200 on my cheap-o apartment oven) for about 45 minutes. It would have been better to use a lower setting for a longer period of time, but alas and alack, that was not possible for me!

And here are the apple chips, ready to be put into my Apple Chicken Salad.

 Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

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