Monthly Archives: January 2010

January 31, 2010

How to help kids get ready for a test

How to help kids get ready for a test

The answer is simple, preparation. The first thing you need to determine is how your child learns. Do they learn by looking, touching, or listening? Do they require multiple types of learning? Do they need information repeated over and over again or do they pick it up right away?

I will give you some hints to help with spelling. The methodologies can be applied to a different subject. Think about how to make learning new material more interactive. My son asked me where we get rice from? I said,”It is grown in the ground.”He asked,” can we plant it outside.” I explained,  “it wouldn’t grow here.” Then he wanted to know why? We went online and researched where it grows and how. It was fun to see his thought process. I just kept typing his questions into my computer and we both learned a lot. I have to say that rice wouldn’t have been my first topic choice but spending time learning with my son is always my priority.

I simplified the examples for the youngest learners but the principles can be adapted for older learners. I actually learn from both visual and auditory tools so I read my notecard to myself to retain information.

The visual learner-

Use the letters of the words to create a picture of the word’s meaning

Place words on note cards once the words are learned phase out the note card until the night before the test and go over all words for a final time.


Tactical learner-

Get some magnetic letters at the dollar store and a cookie sheet. Next, allow your child to build the words. Then mix up the letters and have them do it over again.

Get a roast pan fill with flour, shaving cream, or rice and allow your child to write their words in the provided substance.

Make a movement that goes with every word or letter

Write the words multiple times in pencil, crayon, or paint.

Auditory learner-

Have the students record themselves spelling their words for playback.

Ask the student how to spell the word and have them spell them back out loud.

Pair a musical beat to the spelling, for example, the song B-i-n-g-o (I used this melody to teach my son how to spell his name)

Clap while spelling the words.


January 30, 2010

Freezer Cooking: Butternut Squash, Beans Ravioli and Banana Muffins

freezer cooking

Can you believe it is the end of January and the Pantry Challenge is over? For the most part, it went really well for me. I was nervous and apprehensive when starting on the pantry challenge journey. It turns out that we had plenty of food in our cupboards and freezer. I did fairly well with sticking to my $40 a week food budget. I found that I could not resist some of the good deals that Harris Teeter and Kroger offered this month though. In total, I spent $175 in January on groceries; which averages to $43.75 a week.

Money Saving Mom and Life as Mom are hosting freezer cooking days this coming week. Freezer cooking is something that I want to do more of. This week is extremely busy for me as I prepare for Blissdom and Savvy Blogging. That means I will be doing little freezer cooking this week. Here are a few things I am working on though:

Banana Muffins

Pinto Beans & Refried Beans: I have never used dry beans before. I have the beans soaking today and will use a crock pot to cook them overnight. I plan to freeze some pinto beans for chili and make refried beans to make burritos for the freezer.

butternut squash ravioli

Butternut Squash Raviolis:

1 whole Butternut Squash
1 Tbls. Butter
1 Shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Square Wonton Wrappers

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the skin of the whole butternut squash with a fork. Place in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Place the whole butternut squash in a baking dish and bake for an hour, or until soft.
  2. Cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds and remove peel. Place squash in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat and saute shallot until soft. Add in squash puree and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Place 1 tablespoon of filling on wonton wrapper. Brush water on the edge and fold wonton wrapper in the shape of a triangle. Press edges to seal. If you are going to freeze them, stop here.
  5. To freeze, lay flat on a cookie sheet and flash freeze. When frozen, place in a freezer container.
  6. To cook, place in a pot of boiling water for about 4 minutes or until they float to the top.

That is as far as I will get this week. What are your ideas for freezer meals?


January 24, 2010

Ask A Teacher: What kind of Homework is this?

As our children grow so does the complexity of their assignments. What do you do if you can’t help them with an assignment? The first step is to have an established relationship with the teacher. The next step is to ask questions prior to the night before the assignment is due. It is best to look at a project the night it is given and write down any questions you may have. Then ask your  child if they know the  answer. If they can’t answer them, then send your list to school with your child. I usually go online to gather information about the given topic. If you and your child can’t answer a question try Tutor Vista– it is free and helpful.

What if your child just isn’t getting the concept and you can’t help? There are several ways to get free help.

Ask the teacher first; they maybe able to suggest a program on-site at school. They may also be able to pair your child up with another student. There are a lot of college students at local universities that are available for children. Call the college of education and ask. There are some other ideas on getting a tutor for free at EHOW.


January 23, 2010

Cooking with Connie: Mexican Pork Roast

cooking with connie

Thanks to Connie for this recipe. Below she has fabulous tips for using a slow cooker. Check out Cook with Connie for more fantastic recipes!

I love a good and easy slow cooker meal.  It’s the perfect supper for busy families who need a quick-to-serve meal or a meal that will be eaten in shifts.  I’m always trying different recipes in my slow cooker.  Many recipes can be cooked in the slow cooker with just a few alterations to the original recipe.  When trying a stove top or oven recipe in your slow cooker, follow these guidelines:

1.  The “Low” setting on the slow cooker is approximately 200 degrees in an oven.  The “High” setting is approximately 300 degrees in an oven.  In a slow cooker, 2 hours on “Low” equals approximately 1 hour on “High”.

2.  Cut large pieces of meat into smaller pieces to fit comfortably into your slow cooker.  This will help the meat to cook evenly and to the proper temperature.  Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness.

3.  Fill your slow cooker at least half full and reduce cooking times when using smaller quantities of food.

4.  Don’t peek.  Each time to open the lid, you allow heat and moisture to escape which increases cooking time by 15 minutes and dries out the dish.

5.  Dairy products tend to break down with extended cooking times, so add those at the end.

6.  Generally, you can adapt a favorite recipe (except soups) so that it can be made in the slow cooker by reducing the amount of liquid by about half. 

We eat only farm-raised pork and beef, so at this time of year, our freezer is full of fresh meat.  I wanted to try a pork roast recipe that I could easily turn into a Leftover Makeover.  My Mexican Pork Roast hit the nail on the head!  First, we savored this tender and flavorful roast with smashed potatoes and peas.  Then we enjoyed the shredded roast in tacos.  With the last 2 cups of chopped pork, I made my version of yakisoba, an econmical dish made with ramen noodles.  For those recipes, check out my blog Cook with Connie

Mexican Pork Roast 

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 chipotle peppers, minced
½ c. water
½ c. chicken stock
1 t. chili mix
½ t. salt
½ t. ground cumin
½ t. dried Mexican oregano
1 boneless pork shoulder roast (4 lbs), trimmed and cut in half 

In a large skillet, saute the onions, carrots, and garlic in oil for 3 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker; add chipotle peppers, water, and broth.  In a small bowl, combine chili mix and next 3 ingredients; rub over roast halves; place in the slow cooker.  *see note*  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until meat thermometer reads 170 degrees in center of roast.  Transfer roast and vegetables to a serving platter; keep warm.  Strain cooking juices and skim fat.  Pour into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup.  Serve with roast and vegetables. 

*Note*  Sometimes, when trimming this roast, the meat will “chunk up”, depending on the marbling of the meat.  So, just firmly smash the seasoned pieces of pork together and place in slow cooker.  To test doneness, place the meat thermometer in the center of the largest piece of meat about 15 minutes before end cook time.

January 20, 2010

Creamy Root Vegetable Chowder Recipe

Creamy Root Vegetable Chowder Recipe

So why Root Vegetable Chowder? It seems easy and filling. I am always looking for a way to get my children to eat their veggies. I am also trying to use things I have on hand. This seems like a super way to use white potatoes. I always buy the big bag and then can’t come up with anything to do with them other than make baked potatoes. What do you do with your massive amounts of white potatoes?

Creamy Root Vegetable Chowder Recipe

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January 19, 2010

Southwestern Turkey Soup with Avocado

The Sassy Saver and Frugal Femina have joined forces every Tuesday to share seasonal recipes. One of the easiest ways to save money on food is to cook in season. Food that is in season will be at it’s lowest price for the year. For example, right now things like citrus, avocados, broccoli and fixings for soup are in season. The item of the week for “A Season of Cooking” is Avocados.

I love avocados! Growing up in California they were plentiful and relatively cheap. Not so much here in Virginia. Depending on what part of the country you are in, avocados can range in price from .30¢ to over $2 each. Here in Virginia, they are $1 each right now but they usually range from $1.50-$2.

I found a Southwestern Turkey Soup recipe that calls for avocado. This recipe is fantastic as it can be adapted in many ways. Since I have leftover turkey, it is a perfect fit this week. This recipe is adapted from one I found at All Recipes.


  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey
  • 4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1 (28 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 1 can Corn, drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
  • Tortilla chips
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Directions

    Combine all of the ingredients except for the avocados, tortilla chips and cheese. Place in a crock pot and cook on low for about 6 hours. Crush tortilla chips and place them in a bowl. Pour in soup and sprinkle with chopped avocados and cheese.

    For variation use chicken, black beans or sliced corn tortillas.


This post is linked at Life as Mom.