Spring is upon us. I know in some parts of the
country this doesn’t seem true, but according to the calendar we are, in fact,
almost a week into the spring season. Along with spring and warmer weather, my
favorite fruit makes its appearance. Strawberries.
Last year I shared with you my super easy, super
delicious strawberry pie recipe. This year I’m sharing two strawberry recipes,
and today is the first one. So once you dig yourself out of the snow and spring
makes a permanent appearance, go get some strawberries and enjoy!
Here is what you need to make Strawberry Bars:
1 stick butter, softened
¾ cup peanut butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
½ cup strawberry jam
4 cups strawberries, sliced
First, line a 13x9 inch baking pan with foil. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut
butter on medium to high for 30 seconds.
Beat in sugars, baking powder, and salt until
Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined.
Stir in flour with a spoon.
Spread dough in prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned
and toothpick near center comes out clean.
Cool completely on rack. Remove from pan by lifting foil. Spread jam.
Top with berries and cut into bars.Serve at once or refrigerate up to 6 hours.
I can honestly say that I’ve never seen my family
devour a dessert like they did this one. I made it for Sunday lunch and by late
Sunday afternoon it was all gone!
And then I realized, “Of course, it’s all gone! It
tastes like one huge PB&J!”
stick butter, softened
cup peanut butter
cup packed brown sugar
tsp. baking powder
¼ cups flour
cup strawberry jam
cups strawberries, sliced
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 inch
baking dish with foil. In large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter on
medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugars, baking powder, and salt
until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Stir in flour with a
spoon. Spread dough in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes or until top is lightly
browned and toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on rack. Remove from pan
by lifting foil. Spread jam and top with berries. Cut into bars. Serve at once
or refrigerate up to 6 hours.
Dishing up my favorite sandwich dessert-style in
the tree house,
I seem to always be behind on my blogging
lately which really bugs me, but according to Preacher Man, “No one else cares,
Chel,” which is definitely true. Here is what The Tree Dwellers have been up
to in the past month: World Geography and
Science We’ve traveled to three countries since my
last Summary Saturday, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Two of these
countries I’ve actually visited so we had fun looking through my photos and
souvenirs. While in Italy, we made Margherita Pizza
from scratch after reading the book, Pizza for the Queen.
It was so delicious that it has become a new
staple around our house at lunch time! We also studied Galileo for science while we
were in Italy. The girls had a great time replicating his experiments with
They wanted me to tilt the chair so it would
be like the real Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I declined. Next we crossed the border into France where
we enjoyed some delicious food…
Bacon and Cheese Quiche and Chocolate
Truffles (which were so, so, so good!). I had Miss Jane and Chipette make the Eiffel
Tower out of toothpicks which they thought was really cool.
They are already planning a trip together to
France one day. All I can say is prepare now Frenchmen! After France we went to the Netherlands and
painted Delft blue pictures of windmills.
Had some hagelslag, which is simply bread
spread with butter and topped with chocolate sprinkles, but the Dutch ate this a
lot for breakfast while I was there.
Chipette really loved my wooden shoes and
once I told her that they are only worn outside and left by the door when you
come in, then every time she went in the backyard she had to wear them until I
finally took them away so they wouldn’t be destroyed. There is a fun story
behind how I got those shoes and their history, but maybe another
My goal is get my lesson plans for these
three countries up on the blog this week, so be sure and check back
later. Chipette For some reason I took very few pictures of
Chipette’s school these past few weeks, but she did have a lot of fun doing this
assignment for Spanish.
She wrote a comic strip in Spanish using the
greetings that we’ve learned so far using REAL Homeschool Spanish. Magpie The biggest news in Magpie’s life over the
last month was the loss of her first tooth.
She was so excited and the Tooth Fairy was
Phonics: Magpie’s reading is really coming
along. She can read CVC words pretty consistently which makes her happy. A large
part of her phonics progression has been the fun games included in Logic of
English Foundations. For this game I taped the phonograms we’re
working on to the door to the garage.
When I said a phonogram’s sounds, she threw
a soft ball at the correct one.
The other game was very similar. I wrote
some phonograms on our marker board, then moved it to the back porch. I gave
Magpie a squirt bottle of water and she shot the phonogram with water when I
called out a sound.
You could also do this with chalk on a
sidewalk instead of a marker board. We had a lot of fun with our literature
studies as well. We finished up Good Night Moon and tried to do a
sequencing activity where you put cards in order showing what you do to get
ready for bed.
We had a little problem though. One card
showed the bunny eating a carrot as a bedtime snack. Magpie realized very
quickly that she doesn’t get a bedtime snack and there wasn’t a card for going
to the bathroom. Of course using my awesome art skills, I drew a bunny on the
potty so that Magpie could finish up her sequence.
Chipette and Monkey found the bunny on the
potty very, very funny! We also enjoyed our early spring weather by
going outside and observing what animals and plants were in a circle of the
Monkey Not to be left out Monkey enjoyed some
school time with us as well, especially our Delft paintings.
I love the concentration on his
face! Another fun-filled month of learning and
loving in the tree house, Chelli
Preacher Man is a huge fan of German Chocolate
Cake. In fact, it is his favorite dessert.
So when I found this recipe that is was a twist on this classic I copied
it down. I’m not sure where I got this recipe, but since it’s copied on paper
and not ripped out of a magazine or printed off the internet, that probably
means I came across it while waiting in a doctor’s office!
Here is what you need to make German Brownie Torte:
1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ stick butter, melted
1 box Family size chewy fudge brownie mix
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Line a 15x10 cookie sheet with heavy duty foil.
Coat with nonstick spray.
Mix coconut, pecans, brown sugar, and butter in a
bowl until well blended; set aside.
Prepare brownie mix as package directs for
cake-like brownies. Pour batter into prepared cookie sheet, spreading evenly.
Top with coconut mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Cool brownie in pan on wire rack. Lift foil by
ends onto a cutting board. Cut brownie crosswise into thirds.
Beat cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a
well-chilled bowl on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
To assemble: Place 1 brownie layer, nut side up,
on a serving platter. Spread top with whipped cream. Repeat with remaining
layers and cream ending with cake. Frost all the sides and top with remaining
cream. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.
The result is a fun twist on traditional German
Chocolate Cake that is yummy and looks like you put a lot of time into making
it. And I’ll be honest, even if you don’t do the layering and the whipped
cream, just the brownies with all the good stuff on them are delicious as well!
½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
½ cups chopped pecans
cup packed brown sugar
stick butter, melted
box Family size chewy fudge brownie mix
cups heavy whipping cream
cup powdered sugar
tsp. vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 15x10 inch
cookie sheet with heavy duty foil. Coat with nonstick cooking spray. Mix
coconut, pecans, brown sugar, and butter in a bowl until well blended; set
aside. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like
brownies. Pour batter into prepared cookie sheet, spreading evenly. Top with coconut
mixture. Bake 25 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack. Lift foil by ends onto a
cutting board. Cut brownie crosswise into thirds. Beat cream cheese, powdered
sugar, and vanilla in a well-chilled bowl with mixer on medium-high speed until
stiff peaks form.
To assemble: Place 1 brownie layer, nut side up
on a serving platter. Spread with 1 cup whipped cream. Repeat with remaining layers
and cream, ending with cake. Frost sides with remaining cream. Refrigerate at
least two hours before serving.
Keeping Preacher Man happy is top priority in the
While I don’t get requests for posts often,
sometimes I do get so many questions about one certain topic that I know I need
to address it some way. Most recently I’ve received questions about how I cook on
a budget, plan my meals, and with small children underfoot.
So this Mama Monday post is all about Feeding the
Family: The Budget.
Before you ever set foot in your local grocery
store, you better have a budget. You need to know how much you can spend each
week to make it through the month. Since we live on one salary, I have to make
sure that we can make it through a month without eating beans and rice for a
Each month I spend around $600-$700 on groceries
for our family of 5. This money is only for food and doesn’t include gas or
non-food household items. This averages out to about $150 a week. I try to
always have this amount of money IN CASH when I go grocery shopping. I
emphasized the phrase “in cash” because if I just swipe my debit or credit card
it’s a lot easier for me to go over budget. The weeks that I don’t stop by the
ATM to get cash, I almost always overspend which is not a good thing.
I want to tell you right now that:
I do not clip coupons (too much time involved)
I do not shop at huge warehouse stores like Sam’s
Club or Costco (we don’t have enough storage in our house for 50 rolls of paper
towel no matter how cheap they are!)
I do not drive from store to store to nab the best
deals out of each store’s weekly flyer (I am usually shopping with all three
kids and getting them in and out of three or more stores without a fight,
someone crying, or being nagged to death for candy is never going to happen).
Here is how I try to maximize my budget:
meat only when it’s on sale. Meat is the most expensive part
of any meal 99% of the time. I would love to tell you that I cook vegetarian
meals once or twice a week, but I don’t because Preacher Man would probably cry
if there wasn’t some kind of meat on the table. It’s too depressing to see a
grown man cry, so meat shows up at every meal. Our local grocery store puts new
selections of meat on sale every Wednesday, so I try to sneak up there after
the kids are in bed to look it over. I buy two packages of everything I know we
will eat and store them in the deep freeze in the garage. Some weeks this
equals two packages of chicken, pork chops, roast, and steak. Some weeks it’s
only a couple of different cuts of meat, but I always buy two. I usually do
this the first and third week of the month. That way the second and fourth
weeks I don’t need to buy meat (or not as much) and can use the extra money in
my budget to load up on more of my household needs like cleaning supplies, laundry
detergent, diapers, etc.
away from pre-packaged food as much as possible.
Not only is this stuff not as healthy for you (just read the list of
ingredients, you probably can’t pronounce half of it!), but it’s more
expensive. I’ll be honest, we do eat some of this stuff, but I do try to limit
it. It’s just not worth it when you can make it much cheaper and much healthier.
I also don’t buy snack foods (cookies, crackers, chips) are not happening
a menu ready and ONLY buy what you need for that menu or to restock your
staples (flour, milk, eggs, bread, etc.). I will talk
specifically about how I menu plan next week, but the worst thing you can do is
walk into a grocery store without a list of what you need to cook meals at your
house. Why? Because you will walk up and down the aisles and say, “That looks
good. I’ll get that,” and at checkout discover you have succeeded at going well
out your items that are non-negotiable and cut out something else to make it
happen. I try, try, try to feed my family food that is
healthy, organic, and not processed. However, I am on a budget and buying all
organic is just not feasible right now. I use the dirty dozen list as my base,
but no matter what I try I cannot afford organic meat. It’s just too much, but
I am able to buy the rest of the items on the dirty dozen list. However, to be
able to do this I decided that this was important to me for my family, so I cut
back in some areas to be able to buy organic. I only mention this because
trying to buy organic or gluten-free can be expensive. If it matters to you and
your family, then cut things out of the budget. You can do it.
One last tip….
If you are getting started on trying to cook more from
home, start small. Only cook a couple of nights a week, and then add some more
nights the next month. One thing I can promise you is that cooking at home is
much, much cheaper than eating out. When our family eats at a restaurant it
will cost us about $45-$50 including the tip. I can feed our family steak
(bought on sale), baked potatoes, steamed broccoli with cheese sauce, salad,
and homemade bread for about $20 with the steak being half of the cost. Or take
fast food as an example, for our family $25. If I make burgers and fries (not
frozen, homemade), the total cost is around $8. I know the time factor comes
into play here, but we’ll deal with that problem in a couple of weeks.
So work up a budget and get excited about feeding
your family! Go to Part 2:The Menu
Seeing just how cheap I can feed these folks in
the tree house,
This past week our homeschool group put on a play
about a pirate named Peanut who wanted to be taken seriously for something
other than her small size. This was Chipette’s first acting role. I wanted to
share a clip from the play. Chipette is the game show host for The Wheel of Misfortune.
I was so proud of her and the kids. They did a
wonderful job and learned about all of the work it takes to put on a theatrical
Not to be outdone, Magpie’s Kindergarten/preschool
group did a little rhyme during intermission. Unfortunately the video I took
during the actual play was blurry, but the girls performed it again when our
group met the next week.
Aren’t they super cute?!?
Privileged to know these wonderful families and
children who make our homeschool experience that much better in the tree house,
I’ve been going through my recipe disaster of
loose papers with stains on them “book” trying to organize everything for
my next Happier at Home post, and I came across a recipe that I have not made
in at least 6 years. I love this recipe and I’m not sure why I forgot about it,
but I’m so glad I found it again. It’s a vegetable recipe that combines two
vegetables that aren’t usually found together into a casserole that is out of
this world delicious and sure to get picky eaters to enjoy their veggies!
Here is what you need to make Carrot-Broccoli
First, place 1 inch of water in a large saucepan,
add carrots. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Add broccoli to saucepan; cover and simmer for 6-8
minutes longer. Drain and set aside.
Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan; remove
from heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper.
Gradually add milk until smooth. Cook over low heat stirring frequently until thickened.
Add cheese. Stir until well blended.
Pour cheese sauce over vegetables in pan and stir gently to mix.
Melt the remaining butter in a bowl. Toss with
cracker crumbs. Now we are ready to assemble. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cracker mixture in a greased 2 ½ quart baking dish. Top with half of the vegetable mixture.
Repeat layers: crackers and vegetables.
Sprinkle with remaining cracker mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
A delicious, cheesy way to enjoy carrots and
broccoli without bribery!
The leftovers of this dish also made a delicious
base for some broccoli and cheese soup later in the week. Double yummy!
Place an inch of water in a large saucepan, add
carrots, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Add broccoli to saucepan, cover, and simmer for 6-8 minutes. Drain and set
aside. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in flour, salt, and
pepper. Gradually add milk until smooth. Cook over low heat stirring frequently until
thickened. Add cheese; stir until well blended. Pour cheese sauce over
vegetables in pan and stir gently to mix. Melt the remaining butter in a bowl
and toss with crackers. To assemble: sprinkle 1/3 of the cracker mixture in a
greased 2 ½ quart baking dish. Top with half of the vegetable mixture. Repeat
layers: crackers and vegetables. Sprinkle with remaining cracker mixture and
bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Always happy when I don’t have to twist arms to eat
vegetables in the tree house,
I grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. It
is still home to me despite my current Texas abode. I am so excited to be
sharing a book and an activity about my family’s favorite place to be…Arkansas.
Forget all the stereotypes. Forget all the jokes.
Arkansas is a state with a lively history, a rugged, hardworking people, some
of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen, its own brand of music, art, and
culture, and a nature lover’s paradise.
Since I grew up only a few miles from the Ozark
National Forest, I chose a book that reminds me of that childhood, barefoot
kids, folk music, lightning bugs, rattlesnakes, and beans and cornbread.
Fiddlin’ Sam is about a man who travels through the Ozark Mountains playing his
fiddle to make the people happy. In return the people share what they have,
usually in the form of food, to say thanks. In the story Sam is looking for
someone to pass his fiddle and his music to before he runs out of time. The
story is very good and the artwork consists of beautifully done watercolor
pictures that perfectly capture the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
Fiddle music also captures the state of Arkansas
really well. In fact, Mountain View, Arkansas is the Folk Music Capital of the World
and they host a folk and bluegrass music festival every year. Probably the most
famous Arkansas fiddle song is The Arkansas Traveler which was actually Arkansas’ state song from 1949-1963. You will probably recognize the tune as a children's song, but the original words are here.
Along with the story of Fiddlin’ Sam and the song The
Arkansas Traveler, I created a printable book so that you and your family
can visit some more interesting sights around Arkansas.
The printable is laid out like Eric Carle’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? You will be illustrating the
book and filling in the appropriate location in the blanks.
On the last page is a map of Arkansas for you to
locate the places you’ve visited.
I also included the place names at the end of the
printable in case you’re having trouble finding the answers.
I hope your family enjoys traveling the state of
Arkansas as much as mine does and be sure to check out the other states below.