Spaghetti Anyone?

I was out of town last week at a conference. While I was gone, the boys were “bachin’” it. When I’m not home, the standard fare is typically pizza and carryout for the sake of simplicity not because they can’t cook. Feeding my boys is a way I love them up! I’d left a pot roast in the crock pot so when the three arrived home the first day of my trip dinner was waiting for them. My thought process was they would have leftovers for at least one other meal. This was not the case. They invited their uncle to join them for dinner and the four of them polished off the whole roast. I had to smile. What better compliment could a cook receive?

While it’s nice to eat out, I have to admit I crave homemade, comfort food when I’m back at home. My kids do too. While eating out is a treat, I really enjoy my time in the kitchen especially preparing my family’s favorites. Spaghetti was at the top of the kid’s list for dinner this week. A plate of pasta, an Italian salad and a loaf of French bread put a smile on their faces….and Scott’s too! Food is definitely a straight path to the hearts of my men. Here’s my recipe for an easy hearty sauce and Italian salad.

Hearty Spaghetti Sauce

1 jar prepared pasta sauce

1 can diced tomatoes

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. Italian seasonings

1 lb. Italian sausage (cooked, drained)

pasta (cooked drained)

Combine sauce, tomatoes, garlic and seasonings in crock pot. Simmer on low for 6 hours. Add sausage. Serve over pasta. I use spaghetti, angle hair or penne pasta for variety. Top with parmesan cheese and chili pepper flakes to spice things up!

Tip: I usually double the recipe, including the pasta. I pour the leftover sauce over the pasta, let it cool, and pop the casserole in the freezer for a quick meal when I’m pushed for time.

Italian Salad

For a great Italian salad that gets additional veggies into your kids, try this. In a bowl combine cherry or grape tomatoes, green olives, black olives, shredded carrots, thinly sliced onion, diced cucumber and slivers of red and yellow peppers. Pour your favorite Italian dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate for a few hours before dinner. Simply pour the mixture over mixed greens. Add croutons if your family likes an additional crunch!

Chasing and Catching the ZZZs

You know the nights…tossing, turning, and readjusting the pillow over and over. Sometimes getting to sleep can be a chore. The culprit can be anything from too much caffeine close to bedtime to anxious thoughts. Our kids can suffer the same problem. The suggestions below will help your child avoid those restless nights.

Set the stage for the end of the day. Winding down before bedtimes helps. Avoid screen time a hour before bed. Announcing that your child gets to go to bed rather than has to go makes the time of day much more enticing. A small mug of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey or a cup of chamomile tea helps too. Cozy jammies, a comfortable bed, soft lighting, and a quiet time with Mom or Dad makes bedtime more of a pleasure than a pain, especially for you!

Keep bedtime fairly consistent. Have a structured routine: bath, brush teeth, books or stories, songs and prayers. Few things beat a warm bath to make one sleepy. Crawling in bed squeaky clean is a good feeling including a sparkly smile. Get your child in the habit of brushing his teeth.

If your child is afraid of the dark, plug in a nightlight. If monsters are the problem, check under the bed and in the closet to reassure your child. Reminding him of Jesus’ constant care and protection provides comfort too.

Do you feel like you could recite Good Night Moon in your sleep? Often children choose the same stories to read each night. Allow your child to choose a book and you choose the other. This will add to the nightly repertoire for the future. Homespun stories are fun too. While I usually read books to the boys before bed, my husband had an ongoing saga featuring the adventures of Super Bike.

Singing at bedtime teaches children the songs we love. My boys and I would often end the day with “Jesus Loves Me,” “I See the Moon” or an I love you song I would make up.

Punctuate bedtime with prayer. Rote prayers are good with little ones. Expanding into personal prayers, including attributes of the Lord, thanking God, requesting forgiveness, and ending with asking for help teaches a child how to talk to his heavenly Father. Pray with and for your child. If falling asleep is a problem, an alphabet prayer can help: A-almighty, B- big, C-caring, and so on. Heavy lids often come mid alphabet.

Tuck your child in securely and kiss him goodnight. Tell him you’ll see him in the morning to set the expectation that when the sun rises he may too. Enjoy the evening!

Getting Enough ZZZZZZZs

Sleep Habits for Kids

…when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24b

In regard to attitude, health and general well being nothing beats a good night sleep. I know at my house when we are not getting enough of the old shut eye things deteriorate quickly; tempers are quick to flare, work doesn’t get done and we all usually end up sick. Bedtime is important at the Danielson’s!

Rest is important! Remember, God rested after creating the universe.

How much is enough for our kids? Generally speaking, babies need 14-15 hours of sleep per day, with sleep patterns beginning to be established at 4-5 months. Your baby’s three naps a day will decrease to two afternoon naps around 6 months.

Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per night with one nap during the day. Work your schedule around nap time. Ten to twelve hours of sleep are recommended for preschoolers. As with many aspects of parenting, consistency helps. Determine a bedtime and try to stick to it. Your child’s internal clock will develop a pattern, which is exactly what is needed.

As children grow, a proper amount of sleep is necessary. Bodies are growing! Elementary school age children should be getting 10-11 hours a night and your teen still needs 8-9 hours to be fully rested. And sometimes more. If you have teens, you know exactly what I mean!

Here are some tips regarding bedtime for little ones.

  • Develop a routine and keep it consistent. (Jammies on, teeth brushed, reading time, prayers, and kisses.) Include a time for quiet activities 30 minutes before bedtime to “set the stage” for bedtime.
  • Stick to a consistent bedtime.
  • Make your child’s bedroom a quiet and comfortable place to sleep.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping. Do not put a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom.
  • Limit food and drink before bedtime.
  • Play soft music. This masks other household noise and is soothing.
  • Tuck your child into bed snugly for a feeling of security, using Scripture to remind your child of the Lord’s constant care. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Comfort Food for a Cold Winter Night

In Minnesota, it’s usually cold in January, very cold. This year has been the exception. Even with the warmer than usual weather, comfort foods are still at the top of the menu lists. Pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, wild rice soup, and hearty spaghetti with Italian meat sauce are family requests on cold winter nights. Here is my family’s favorite recipe for Wild Rice Soup. It takes a little longer to make from scratch but it is worth the work.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

3-4 chicken breasts                           8 C water

2-3 Tbsp. chicken bouillon                1 C carrots, diced

1 onion, diced                                    3 stalks celery, sliced

½ C butter                                         ½ C Wondra flour

1 C heavy cream                                salt & pepper

¼ lb. bacon                                       4 C wild rice, cooked

Cook chicken in water on low until tender and cooked through. Remove from water. Reserve the chicken stock. Cool chicken and cut into bit-size pieces. Pour water through a sieve into a stockpot. Add bouillon, carrots, onions and celery. Simmer until vegetables are soft.

Cut bacon unto bite-size pieces. Fry until cooked through but not crispy. Drain on paper towels.

In skillet, melt butter. Remove from heat. Whisk in Wondra until the roux is the consistency of coarse paste. Add this mixture to the broth and vegetables.

Stir in cream. Add wild rice, bacon and chicken. Simmer on low. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

NOTE: If the soup is too runny, remove a cup of liquid, whisk in more Wondra and stir this mixture into the soup.

Enjoy hearty comfort foods in the cold winter months. Thank God for the beautiful snow. After a brown Christmas, I’m dreaming of a white Valentine’s Day!