Easy Dinner Recipes: “Philly Cheesesteak” Bowls

Life has been extra crazy lately, and I’m not talking about the current COVID-19 Pandemic and the prolonged social distancing the US is facing right now. That’s crazy too, but since my husband and I both work from home already, and we homeschool, our day to day routines haven’t been too affected – other than not being able to attend social functions and keeping our daughter home from dance classes and playgroups.

No, my life is crazy because I am:

  • in the middle of a complete re-brand and moving over to an all new, professionally designed, website
  • developing an online course, for Pinterest management using Tailwind, under the new brand
  • working with a therapist in an RDI program for my daughter’s newly diagnosed Autism and implementing this at home
  • pushing through several MAJOR home renovations in preparation for listing our house for sale
  • planning a BIG 800 mile move

You know, all on top of managing the day to day work for my clients’ Pinterest accounts, living with chronic illness and navigating the “bad days” , homeschooling, and running a home. NBD, right?

All that to say, I really really really appreciate a meal that doesn’t require me to put a whole lot of effort into it. If it can be made in 30 minutes or less, it’s a keeper! Bonus points for being low carb.

These Philly Cheesesteak bowls check all the boxes! Plus, you only need 4 main ingredients, and some common seasonings.

I’ll remind you that you won’t see much by way of measurements in my recipes. I cook intuitively – which means I wait for the spirit of my ancestors to tell me I’ve used enough seasonings!

Really, I taste as I go and adjust accordingly. I recommend you do too. Just remember you can always add MORE of something, but you can’t take it back! So start with a little and add a little more at a time as needed.

Without further ado… Philly Cheesesteak Bowls!


Ingredients:

  • THIN sirloin steaks OR Shredded Steak (4-6 thin steaks, they came in packs of 3 from my grocery store, or 2 packs of shredded steak)
  • 2 Green Bell Peppers
  • Bag of Frozen Cauliflower Rice
  • Shredded Mozzarella (I used about 4 handfuls, so maybe 2 cups?)
  • Milk or non-dairy milk of choice (we use unsweetened Almond milk)
  • McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning (or steak rub/seasoning of choice)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Oil (olive, coconut, canola, whatever)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • If using thin sirloin steaks, cut steaks into narrow strips.
  • Dice peppers.
  • Place meat into skillet and brown, stirring frequently.
  • Season meat liberally with Montreal steak seasoning (or seasoning of choice) and cook through.
  • Add roughly equal parts Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce – Listen to your ancestors! Or, add a little at a time until it tastes good. You want there to be enough liquid to form a sauce once the cheese is melted in.
  • Melt in 2 handfuls of mozzarella cheese.
  • In a small skillet, saute peppers in oil of choice until softened (about 3 to 5 minutes)
  • Microwave frozen cauliflower rice for 5 minutes.
  • Add cauliflower rice to peppers and season with salt/black pepper.
  • Add a little milk to veggies and melt in 2 handfuls mozzarella cheese. Add more milk as needed.

    Serve combined or over plain rice if you aren’t worried about the carbs!


You could probably do this all in the same skillet but, if you have kiddos who aren’t likely to eat the cauli rice/pepper mixture, like I do, using two skillets allows everyone to layer their own bowl however they want to.

Enjoy!

xo,

Marissa

SOOOOOO DELICIOUS!!!

April Holidays: Activity Ideas for Kids

Currently a large portion of the world is practicing “social distancing”. Many schools here in the US are closed, work places are closed, states are under shelter in place orders… it’s a crazy time! Lots of parents are home with their kids, trying to find ways to fill their time, keep little ones entertained, and keep from going completely stir crazy!

Fortunately, lots of organizations have stepped up to help provide activities and things to do, for free, to families impacted by shelter in place orders, or school/work closings. Other families who already work from home or homeschool, are providing countless resources to families who are suddenly faced with working from home and/or schooling their own children. It’s a scary and trying time for sure, but also kind of heart warming to see how people are pulling together to get through this pandemic.

In my facebook group, we are observing some unique holidays this month and I’ve put together some complementary activity ideas you can do at home! Check out the below list of holidays we will be observing and the associated suggestions for how to celebrate them at home.

And remember, even though we’re supposed to be social distancing, going outside IS OKAY (and likely necessary for your physical and mental health), just stay 6 feet away from others at all times and don’t play on any playground equipment!

Zoo Lovers Day April 8th

  • Check out a Zoo Cam!
  • Check out THESE Zoo Lovers Day Activities and Games
  • Choose 1 zoo animal to learn more about. Youtube and Pinterest are both great places to start!
  • Watch this video for kids about the job of a zookeeper
  • Reading zoo animal books! Check out THESE books from Usborne

Unicorn Day April 9th

Unicorn Popcorn Recipe

1) Pop a bag of plain or lightly salted popcorn in the microwave (or use a popcorn maker!)

2) Pour popcorn into a bowl

3) Melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips, or 1/2 package of white chocolate/vanilla candy coating. (Be careful not to overheat or the chocolate will seize up! Best done on stovetop, but you can do this in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring well after each interval until melted.)

4) Add 4-6 drops of your favorite Unicorn-colored food coloring to the melted chocolate/candy coating and mix until well incorporated. (optional)

5) Pour over popcorn and fold in gently until evenly distributed.

6) Salt popcorn, stir gently, taste and repeat until desired saltiness is achieved.

7) Add sprinkles (optional, but highly recommended)

8) Stick bowl in the fridge for 5-10 minutes, or until coating is hardened.

9) Gently break up popcorn into clusters/pieces and enjoy!

World Art Day April 15th

  • Check out some art activities and project ideas HERE
  • Pick a famous artist and learn about them today/recreate a masterpiece
  • Check out this BIG list of art activity books
  • Explore art images from around the world, modern or ancient – Every country/region of the world has a different artistic flair, from the ancient Aztecs to the modern manga styles from Japan.
  • Take a virtual tour of an art gallery

For more April Holiday celebration ideas – including Earth Day, Arbor Day, World Penguin Day, Tell a Story Day, etc. come join my Facebook Group (and enter our monthly contest to win a FREE BOOK from Usborne Books & More)!

xo,

Marissa

How We Are Celebrating Winter Solstice

This will be the second year our family has officially celebrated the winter solstice, aka Yule! I am loving the inclusion of our seasonal observances/holidays because they are untainted by commercialism and provide wonderful learning opportunities. They are also full of “hygge” (my new favorite word)!

This year we will be bringing back some of the same activities we enjoyed last year: baking a sun cake, reading a story about winter solstice, decorating our tree… but we also started a new tradition!

This year our “elf on the shelf” has been bringing a book each night to read together the following day.

We don’t do the traditional elf on the shelf thing anyway – I just don’t like the idea of the fear-based tactic of the elf always watching and reporting to Santa. In years past, our elf has simply come to visit with us, sometimes getting herself into silly situations (like stuck in the sugar jar). But we have never read the Elf on the Shelf story in this house and we never will (in fact I gave the accompanying book away this year).

K has LOVED this new tradition! it’s brought us all together at bedtime and has added quite substantially to her bookshelf! I had to raid TWO local Goodwill stores to find all 25 books – new books would be lovely but, we’re all about that frugal living (I spent less than $20 on this!) and keeping things simple. Used books are just as good and I found some really fun reads by thrifting, rather than buying from a bookstore.

We will also be celebrating Christmas later this month. Since hubby and I both grew up in Christian homes and since Christmas is such a widely celebrated holiday anyway – and is honestly more secular in society’s portrayal of it – this is a holiday we can’t really get away from.

We keep it simple, Santa only brings 3 gifts and a modest stocking. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts as we prefer to spend the money on the kids. We spend the morning together drinking tea and opening gifts, then head to my in law’s for breakfast, my grandpa’s for lunch, and end the day at hubby’s grandpa’s for dinner. We visit my parents’ on Christmas Eve. My stepson joins us for at least one day. It’s a holiday full of food and family and I personally try very very hard to keep a spirit of giving, without falling prey to an obligation to spend X amount of money on X amount of people, buy plastic junk, etc.

Yule/ Solstice is different. There are no gifts – aside from the books our elf brings. We bake, we do crafts, we read together, and we light candles and give thanks for the warmth of the sun, the turning of the seasons, and all of our myriad blessings. We reflect on the past year and let go of it. We express our hopes for the new year and welcome back the sun and the lengthening of days. This year, we’ll get together with some of our friends and bake cookies/make crafts together before circling around the fire to give thanks and share a meal together. There is no rushing from place to place, there is no pressure to buy gifts, there is nothing but a cozy (if not chaotic from all the kids!) gathering and an honoring of the Earth and her cycles.

If you are new to the Wheel of the Year, and looking for some ideas on how to celebrate Yule – check out this post {updating soon}! For our Sun Cake recipe – click here!

And if you need more ideas – visit our Yule board on Pinterest 🙂

Blessed Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Diwali…. whatever you are celebrating this winter season, I hope it is filled with lots of Love and Light!

BB

Easy Sun Cake Recipe

This sun cake is so easy and delicious! This cake is light and moist, and is topped with a orange cream cheese “glaze” – not a heavy frosting! Using a ROUND cake pan , yellow cake, and oranges, this cake represents the Sun and is perfect for celebrating winter solstice (return of the sun) or as a summer treat!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix PLUS the needed ingredients listed on the box (eggs/oil)
  • 2-3 cups mandarin orange slices in juice or water (the canned kind)
  • 1 block of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of sugar

Cake Instructions:

  • Prepare cake batter as directed on box with eggs and oil, BUT DO NOT ADD WATER.
  • Blend 1 cup of canned mandarin oranges and add to cake batter.
  • Add batter to greased cake pan and bake as directed on box for pan size/type. (You may need to bake it longer, but check it at the time indicated for doneness). I use a ROUND cake pan.

Frosting Instructions:

  • In a microwave save bowl, melt 1 block of cream cheese in the microwave using 30 second intervals. Stir every 30 seconds until uniformly melted and creamy.
  • Add 1 cup of sugar to the bowl and combine thoroughly.
  • Blend 1/2 cup of canned mandarin oranges and add to cream cheese mixture. Combine thoroughly

Assembly:

  • Turn out cake onto a cake plate or other flat dish and allow to cool slightly. You don’t want it to be too hot, but it needs to be warm so the frosting will glaze a bit while still covering the surface evenly.
  • Poke a few holes in the cake and pour the cream cheese glaze over the cake, starting in the middle. Allow to drip over the sides.
  • Decorate the top of the cake with remaining orange slices and serve!

DIY Painted Acorns & Acorn Necklace Tutorial

It’s officially FALL! Here’s a cute and easy fall craft you can do with ACORNS – assuming the squirrels haven’t gotten to them all first.

Acorns are popular symbols in jewelry and keepsakes, as well as in folklore and magick.

  • Acorns are an old symbol of good luck, strength, and prosperity.
  • Carrying an acorn in your pocket is said to protect you from illnesses.
  • Placing an acorn on your windowsill under a full moon is said to bring you good fortune.
  • “Passing the acorn” is an ancient pagan practice of gifting an acorn to a fellow witch at Samhain.
  • The red tannins from the water of soaked acorns can be used as a dye. Tannin-water from soaked acorns is also anti-septic, anti-viral, and will help with minor burns, rashes, and poison ivy.

Because it’s fall, and nearly Samhain, I wanted to preserve some acorns and place them on our family altar and make a necklace for K and myself to wear! Fortunatley, we live in an area of the country where several types of oak trees are abundant – and the acorns have just recently begun to fall. Preserving the acorns for our decor was super easy, and the necklaces turned out really cute! Here’s how:

First, collect some acorns – obviously 😉 If acorns are not available where you live, you can get them from Amazon! Make sure they do not have any holes or visible rot/mold. It’s OK if the caps come off, you can glue them back on. Just make sure you have a cap for every acorn!

Rinse the acorns in water and gently brush over each one with a bristly paintbrush, toothbrush, or other soft bristled brush.

Set them on a flat surface to air dry for 1 hour. Then place the acorns (and caps) in a shallow baking dish and place into an oven set to 175F. Allow to remain in the oven for 2 hours, rotating the acorns every 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Once they have cooled you can leave them as is, or you can place a shiny clear coat over them, or you can paint them! I recommend using enamel or acrylics if you choose to pain them.

If you want to make your own acorn necklace, you’ll need:

  • a needle
  • an eye pin (or jewelry wire to make an eye pin)
  • a chain with a clasp, leather cording, or whatever you want to string the acorn on to make the necklace.
  • an extra o-ring
  • an acorn, prepared as above. It’s actually easiest if you chose one that has been separated from it’s cap – though you’ll still need the cap!
  • hot glue gun

Instructions:

  1. Insert the needle straight down into the cap where you want the eye pin to go. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the acorn cap so it doesn’t crumble or crack. Wiggle the needle around to enlarge the hole a bit then insert the eye pin, loop side out.
  2. Trim the eye pin so there is only a little bit inside the acorn (about 3-5mm). Bend this part of the eye pin so it doesn’t pull straight out of the cap.
  3. Fill the acorn cap with hot glue and quickly press the acorn body into the cap. Hold pressure until set.
  4. Place the o-ring through the eye pin and close securely.
  5. You now have an acorn charm that you can place on your necklace chain, cord, or string!

We tried making the charm with 2 holes in the cap at first, but it was very difficult to pass the eye pin through both holes. The second charm we made, I used the method above and it worked wonderfully!

A note of caution, make sure if you paint the acorns that they are good and dry before you wear them as a necklace!! I’d even advise putting a clear coat over the paint so it doesn’t rub off on clothing. My little one treated her acorn as a chewie necklace shortly after we made hers and it resulted in a blue face and stained shirt! (c’est la vie)

The rest of our acorns are resting in this adorable leaf bowl on our altar!

I’m slightly addicted to colorful acorns now and I imagine we will make this a yearly seasonal tradition! Waxed pinecones are next 😉

For more acorn and fall craft ideas – follow us on Pinterest!

Easy Fall Leaf Print Art Project

Easy Fall Leaf Print Art Project

What’s a better way to learn about different trees / leaf patterns than this esay leaf print project?

All you need are leaves of various shapes and sizes, acrylic or tempura paunts, brushes, and a printable surface (we chose a small canvas, but you could also use t-shirts or tote bags!).

We gathered our leaves from our backyard, but you could gather them really anywhere during the fall! Special places or on a nature walk… Try gathering both deciduous and coniferous leaves! Just make sure you choose leaves that arent too brittle or they will break and crumble when you try to press them down.

Once you have your leaves, evenly paint the underneath side of the leaf to get all the vein patterns. You want a thin wet coat, no glops or it won’t show the print very well.

Position your leaf painted side down and lightly press/rub from the stem outward towards the tips, being caregul not to scoot the leaf across the surface of the canvas (or t-shirt, paper, etc.)

Then, gently peel the leaf upward from its stem and voila! You should have a leaf print!

Try painting patterns or multiple colors on a single leaf for more artsy prints. Also, don’t be afraid to let the prints overlap!

Experiment and have fun. Try to identify the trees each leaf came from, talk about the differences you see in the leaf patterns, etc.

Once we were done with our leaves, we let the re-painted and let the leaves dry, then ran them through oyr laminator. We cut out around their shapes and, with the help of Facebook and Google, identified each leaf’s tree and wrote its name on the unpainted side in Sharpie for my daughter’s nature collection (and educational purposes)!

Easy Lemon Cake Pops

Cake pops have to be the most versatile dessert ever. You can decorate them and flavor them a million different ways. You can leave out the sticks and turn them into “cake truffles” or “cake balls”. They are ready-to-eat in perfectly portioned sphericals and darn it if they just don’t make everyone happy!

I LOVE cake pops. I don’t have all the fancy cake pop makin’ gadgetry – just do a search for cake pop molds on Amazon and you’ll find all kinds of goodies to make your cake pop making experience much more “professional” and supposedly easier too. But I don’t use any of that stuff. Would I like to? Yes. But I don’t really have the space to store said stuff and I really really don’t need any more excuses to make cake pops more often.

If you want to use the gadgetry, by all means, go right ahead! But if you don’t have the fancy tools, you CAN still make yummy cake pops fairly easily! We made these lemon cake pops for summer solstice this year and 5 days later they were all gone!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • yellow cake mix plus ingredients on box (eggs, oil, water)
  • LorAnn lemon oil
  • 16oz yellow candy coating (vanilla flavored) – like these
  • vanilla buttercream icing
  • cooking spray/oil

TOOLS

  • 9×12 baking dish
  • large mixing bowl
  • hand mixer
  • rubber spatula
  • cookie sheet
  • wax paper/freezer paper
  • double boiler, or 1 medium pot and 1 small pot
  • cake pop sticks – i.e. paper straws, bamboo skewers, etc.
  • cake pop stand (commercial or DIY)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Prepare cake batter as instructed and add 1 vial of LorAnn lemon oil to batter. Bake as directed. Be sure to coat your baking pan with oil/cooking spray!!
  • Allow cake to cool completely then turn out in pieces into the mixing bowl
  • Mix in icing 1 spoonful at a time until cake is able to be formed into balls. You want the consistency of the resulting “dough” to be moist enough that the cake balls do not fall apart. If you add too much icing, the balls will too soft to stand upright on the sticks – so just ditch ’em! The cake balls will still taste yummy, they’ll just be a bit softer in the middle. 😉
  • Form the “dough” into 1 inch balls, insert sticks, and place on cookie sheet covered with wax or freezer paper. Freeze for 1-2 hours.
  • When the cake balls have frozen and are firm, assemble the double boiler (or use the 2 pot method).
  • Melt candy coating in the double boiler/top pot, over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning/seizing.
  • Carefully dip each cake pop into the melted coating. Either return the dipped cake pop in a standing position to the wax paper (you will have a flattened “top”) or place pop in a stand. (Tip: Sytrofoam lids, cardboard boxes, and some colanders make easy impromptu stands.)
  • Place finished cake pops in the refrigerator and allow coating to cool completely.
  • Eat and Enjoy!

This is a pretty basic recipe. Experiment with different cake flavors and icing combos and add sprinkles or an icing drizzle or even fondant flourishes to make your own special cake pops!

And don’t stress if they don’t turn out perfectly – several of ours had some less than perfect candy coating (I let hubby and the kids dip them), it’s whatever. I don’t claim to be a “Pinteretst perfect” mom, so what you see in our pics is never a doctored up reality 😉 IMO, it’s the experience and memory-making that matters.

XO,
Marissa

DIY Eco-Friendly Bird Feeders

For one of our Summer Solstice activities, we made these easy, eco-friendly, bird feeders! They are eco friendly because every part of the feeder is bio-degradable/natural!

This craft takes literally minutes to do, making it a perfect activity for those who have little time or small attention spans!! (ahem, my child.) If you’re going to let little ones do the cutting (hello fine motor skills!), you should definitely use a kid’s safety knife. We have this set and LOVE it!

SENSORY TIP: For avoiders, have baby wipes handy or have them wear gloves, as this activity can be a bit sticky. I know my daughter HATES that sticky feeling!

What you’ll need:

  • Navel Oranges or Grapefruits (large fruits with thick skin work best!)
  • Wild Bird Seed
  • String made from natural fibers (yarn, twine, etc.)
  • Tools:
    • Small Knife (or kid’s safety knife)and Cutting Board/Mat
    • Bowl
    • Spoon
    • Scissors
    • Pencil/Screwdriver (something to poke holes with)
    • Ladder (to help you hang the finished feeders!)

Instructions:

  1. Cut each orange (or grapefruit) in half. Make your cut in the widest part of the orange, not from navel to navel.
  2. Using a small knife, cut around the flesh to loosen it from the pith and rind. Do this carefully so you don’t rip or puncture the rind. We need that part to be intact!
  3. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and place in a bowl. Set aside for juicing, eating, or baking!
  4. Using a pencil or screwdriver, puncture two holes on either side of the hollowed out rind. Place these holes at least a half centimeter below the rim of the “bowl” you have created.
  5. Thread 1 string through each hole and tie securely to the orange rind.
  6. Fill the bowl with wild bird seed.
  7. Hang outside!

To extend this activity, you could use this as an opportunity to discuss the parts of an orange or how they are grown.

If you don’t want to eat or juice the orange pulp, try replacing all the wet ingredients in a yellow box cake mix with orange juice for a fresh summery take on cake! Or check out THESE other orange recipes.

Happy Summer-ing!
M

Summer Solstice (Litha/Midsummer) Celebration Ideas for Families

It’s hard to believe that the year is nearly half over! Summer is basically here, at least weather wise, where I live, but it won’t be “officially” here until the summer solstice on June 21st.

I love summer and I am super excited to celebrate Litha this year with my husband and daughter. My son is also in town, but for him it’s just summer solstice. As a blended family, we only get 7 or 8 weeks of summer with E (our son). He’ll be 17 this year and be entering his senior year of high school (and graduating with only 1 semester of college left to do to get his associates). Soon he’ll be working or pursuing other passions and we won’t have the unhindered family summers with him that we have now.

On the other hand, my daughter just turned 5 and so is at the age now where she can really enjoy (and remember) doing special things with the family. So I feel this kind of pressure to make THIS summer memorable for all of us.

We’ve already planned a trip to Niagara falls in a couple weeks – which I am SUPER stoked about – and we made a summer bucket list 🙂

We’ll return from our family vacation just in time for Litha so I’ve already been planning out our celebration activities! Here’s some of the things I came up with:

summer solstice/Litha/Midsummer activities:

  • sunrise / sunset yoga
  • brew sun tea
  • make a sundial
  • make shadow art
  • make bird feeders out of orange peels
  • make energy bags with herbs & crystals
  • make cupcakes / cake pops decorated like suns
  • gather wildflowers and make sun catchers (place between clear contact paper/laminate and cut out shapes)
  • create “time capsule” envelopes. Write down things that are going on, hopes, dreams, resolutions, etc. and put them in envelopes to open next Litha.
  • build a fire and roast marshmallows
  • cookout/grill or make a “summery” meal together

We may not do ALL of these, but I like having at least an idea of what our day could look like. I know that we will for sure do the time capsule envelopes and I’ve planned a dinner of lemon-garlic chicken linguine tossed with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil (yum! Just thinking about it makes me hungry!) Don’t worry I’ll post the recipe after Litha! 😉

I’ll be doing a few other things to celebrate on a personal level and connect spiritually with the abundance of the season, but I don’t require or request that my family do the same.

I hope that no matter how you bring in the new season, that it’s a time of family love and togetherness!

xo,
-M