Better Beans for Black Bean Salad

There are numerous quick, easy, and healthy meals that can be made using beans.

(I’m going to share a super-tasty black bean salad recipe with you today!)

And opening a can of beans is train-a-monkey-to-do-it easy!

But is it best?beans1


Don’t get me wrong. BEANS are GREAT!

They’re inexpensive, versatile, full of protein & fiber, and loaded with nutrients.

They’ve even been called “the undervalued superfood”. They’re fabulous!

I hope you’re using lots of them!


But today I’m asking you to

rethink your bean-BUYING…

if you’re buying them by the can.


Here are three things to ponder when considering a can of beans vs. a bag of dried beansbeans

        1. COST. Buying them by the pound, in a bag, is much cheaper.
        2. HEALTH. When you get them in a bag, you control what goes into them. Ever noticed the level of sodium in canned goods?
        3. FLAVOR. Beans can be cooked to perfection with your own spices and flavoring added… not taken from a tin can processed who-knows-how-long-ago.


When I was first married, I would grab a can of beans from the store shelf to add to a meal without a second thought. But as our family grew and I became more money and health-conscious, I began to purchase my beans by the pound, dried.


It did take a while getting used to preparing the beans myself… but it really isn’t difficult.*

And sure, it takes a bit of planning ahead. But it also cut back on the grocery budget (as “planning” often does!).

I like to soak my beans overnight and then cook up a big batch the next day, saving a few cups in the refrigerator and packaging the rest up to store in the freezer for another meal.


I’d encourage you to consider the benefits of buying and cooking up your own beans.

And while you’re considering it, check out the scrumptious recipe I promised you at the beginning of this post!



Combine these first five ingredients. Whip them together to be used as the dressing.

½ c. lime juice

½ c. olive oil

1 minced garlic clove

1 t. saltbeansalad

1/8 t. cayenne pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the following:

½ c. chopped fresh cilantro

4 c. black beans, rinsed and drained

½ c. corn kernels

1 avacado – peeled, pitted and diced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

6 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, finely diced


Mix the vegetables and beans together and toss with the dressing. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more. Serve with tortilla chips.

Goes great with burgers on the grill.

Tastes wonderful eaten as a side dish.



*For a free “Cooking Guide for Dried Beans”, click HERE.

To learn nine reasons why YOU should eat beans, click HERE.


Digital Back-to-School Plan

Life has gone digital!

As a culture, we’re becoming more and more adapt at interacting with … a screen.

It’s how we’re spending our time.

It’s becoming a way of existence.


Technology has suddenly become a force to be reckoned with.


A while back, I wrote about the need to discipline our use of technology. (Catch it HERE if you missed it.) About our need to be intentional.

Today, I wanted to offer you a written “contract” to help you and your family in this area…

to help you safely control the amount of time spent in the black hole of digital media.


Because no matter what type of schooling you choose for your child(ren),digital

YOU will always be your child’s first and best teacher.

As such, you are the one they will most likely model in thoughts, attitude and actions.

Even media consumption habits.


In light of that, here’s a question to consider: how much time are you on-line each day?

Is your time being wastefully spent or wisely invested?


It’s tricky, you see. Because we can justify….

I’m not playing video games.

I’m not spending hours watching You Tube.

What I’m doing is important.


But, as is true with all other screen-activities, I can become absorbed in my media-of-choice

and before I know it, too much time has passed.

And here is where the rubber meets the road.


No matter WHAT I was doing when I was engaged in screen-time,digital 1

I was spending time with IT and not with THEM…


The form below is taken from The Digital Invasion website. This link HERE will give you several other contract options (adult, child, and teenage pledges/agreements) as well as an internet addiction test and many other free resources.


If it hasn’t become one already, dealing with technology is going to be an issue for most parents in a relatively short time.

And, as I’ve said before, foresight is a parent’s finest weapon.

So check out the contract below. Print one for your home or make your own contract. It may just be the best “back to school” planning you’ll do this year!


Family Digital Use Contract

1. I commit to not hide my activities I am doing online and on my phone from other members of my family.

2. I commit to not share personal information to anyone.

3. I commit to limit my time on the computer to _______________ hours a week.

4. I commit to limit time my time spent gaming to _______________ hours a week.

5. I commit to be responsible for my password and will not share it with people outside the family.

6. I commit to be respectful and practice responsible behavior not insulting people or sending mean messages online; or in a text or comment.

7. I commit to not purchase anything online or enter a credit card for any reason without asking my parent first.

8. I commit to not copying, pasting or sending a message to someone else if that message was meant only for me.

9. I commit to give credit to others when I cite, quote, or copy their ideas or images from any sources.

10. I commit to not fill out surveys or questionnaires online and will not give out my specific information about where I live or where I go during the day.

11. I commit to download or use copyrighted materials only when they are legal to do so or I have sought and received permission to use them.

12. I commit that I will tell someone in the family if I experience something online that makes me feel bad or that I feel is inappropriate.

13. I commit that the following locations will be digital free zones: __________________________________________________________________

14. I commit that when I am at the dinner table with family I will put my phone and other digital gadgets away.

15. I commit to spend _____________ hours a week doing activities with my family members.


Date: _______ Child Signature: ______________ Parent Signature: _____________________



Here’s another idea. Click HERE, print the “Pick 1” image, frame it and follow its advice.

Remember, their eyes are on YOU.


Be the type of media-consumer you’re hoping your kids will become!

When Life Gives You A Lemon

When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.


Summer’s almost over… and for many kids that thought is sort of like getting handed a big ole’ lemon. The news is a bit sour.

(You mean I have to get up with an alarm in the morning?

I have to go to school all day long?? I have to do homework? What???)


How do you handle that kind of information? Any news that is bitter, unpleasant, or disagreeable???


Maybe this is a good time for a family discussion,

an opportunity for you to share how you handle the things in life that are difficult to swallow,

an opportunity to reveal both your success and failures

in the area of attitude and choices.


“We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have,

and that is our attitude…

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

–Charles R. Swindoll


Care to tackle the topic of attitude and choices with your kids?

As in so many other areas of parenting,

food or drinks always make a pondering session

a bit more palatable,

so how about some ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’ recipes

to sweeten your talk?

Here you go:



4 c. water

1 c. lemon juice

2/3 c. sugar

Mix the first three ingredients in a pitcher. Then add ice cubes and serve it up. This recipe makes 5 eight ounce glasses.


Pink Lemonade

Make a simple syrup by heating 1 ¼ c. sugar and 1 c. of water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set it aside. Now stir the syrup with 3 additional cups of water, 1 c. lemon juice and 1 c. cranberry juice. Chill, then pour over ice.


Lemon Cakelemon cake

Mix 1 c. sugar and 2 eggs.

Add 3T. lemon juice and 1 c. almond milk. Mix.

Add 1 ¾ c. rice flour , 1 ½ t. guar gum (or xanthan gum) and 2 t. baking powder. Stir.

Add ½ c. oil. Blend.

Pour into a greased 8×8 pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

(This is a recipe my kids originally found in a High Five magazine. We made a few adjustments to it so this is the gluten and dairy-free version, made just for our family! I’m sure it’s wonderful with a layer of frosting, but we eat it sans topping!)


Yes, when life gives you a lemon,

make lemonade…

or a lemon cake…

or at least an attitude adjustment.

It’ll make a big difference in the outcome!



“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.

It is more important than the past, than education, than money,

than circumstance, than failures, than successes,

than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill….

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day

regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change our past…

we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.

We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have,

and that is our attitude…

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me

and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you…

we are in charge of our attitudes.”

(Charles R. Swindoll)

Cool as a Cucumber

cucs3Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?


While it was Mother Goose* that first officially asked the question

back in the mid 1700s,

this same question is still brought up today

-especially this time of year-

in the mid-west.


How’s your garden growing?

After planning, planting, weeding, and caring for all of those precious plants,

we are now reaping a harvest and enjoying incredibly tasty food

-just one of the benefits of having a garden **

(followed closely by improving your physical & mental health

and reducing your environmental footprint).


Are you finding plenty of ways to enjoy the vegetables

that you’re getting from your plot?

My family’s been eating a lot of zucchini sauté lately.

{You can find the scrumptious recipe we use HERE.}

And soon we’re hoping to put up some refrigerator cucumbers.


Here comes an easy recipe for that.cucs1

And, pssst!, once they’re made, you’ll be able to enjoy them for several weeks.

Now THAT’S what I call a good recipe!

Here it is:


Refrigerator Cucumbers

  • Get a one-gallon glass jar.
  • Slice a whole passel of cucumbers (but don’t peel them).
  • Slice 4-5 small onions.
  • Layer the cucumbers and onions in your one-gallon glass jar until it is ¾ of the way full.
  • Add 2 cups of sugar, ¼ c. canning salt, 1 T. mustard seed, 1 T. celery seed, and 1 T. turmeric. Pour it over the cucumber and onion layers.
  • Finish filling the jar with cucumbers, pushing down to pack it well.
  • Now add 3 cups of white vinegar.
  • Shake it and then leave it set on the counter.
  • After a few hours, push down the veggies again and add more cucumbers.
  • Now that it’s packed to the brim, refrigerate it, shaking it once a day for 5 days.
  • After five days, they’re ready to eat! Open the jar and enjoy. Snack on them throughout the day; set them out at your next barbeque. When you’ve had your fill, recap the jar and place it back in the fridge. You’ll be able to savor those cucs for the rest of the summer!



When company stops by unexpectedly, you won’t find yourself in a pickle.

No. You’ll open the fridge, pull out the refrigerator cucumbers, and serve up a tasty treat.

You’re so cool.

Cool as a cucumber!



 *Just WHO was Mother Goose? Answer: Many different writers from many different times (some female and others male). Hundreds of children’s stories, songs, chants and games have been attributed to Mother Goose, although her(?) exact identity and origin is still unknown!

**For a list of eight benefits of backyard gardening, check out

Pass the Mustard

Mustard is a very popular condiment in many American households! That’s true of our home as well. My one son in particular finds mustard irresistible… I mean he LOVES it. (He’s happily received a bottle or two as gifts in the past!) This guy will put it on any foods we allow him to, consuming as much per day as we’ll tolerate. He uses so much of it that I’m always watching to see if his skin is starting to turn a bit jaundice looking!

4mustardAs a cautious parent that tries to make careful decisions about the foods we devour, I’ve done quite a bit of reading and research in the fodder department but I’d never checked into ‘mustard’. For self-condolence, I’d always told myself that of all the condiments to choose from, mustard must be the healthiest choice, right? (I mean it’s gotta be a lot better than ketchup anyway.) But until now, it was a bunch of uninformed self-talk. I was just telling myself what I hoped to be true about this best-loved sauce … (ever done anything like that before?).

Well, August 5 is National Mustard Day! And since mustard is getting some national attention today, I did a bit of digging and found a few items of interest to share with you. (And they make me pretty happy with my son’s yellow-bottle companion.)


Health & nutritional benefits of mustard:

*Mustard seeds have been used for about 5000 years.

*The mustard seed used in the favorite yellow condiment mustard is packed with omega-3, omega-6, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

*Mustard seeds have antiseptic and anti-fungal properties… making them very useful for purging the digestive system and increasing the body’s natural defense system.

*Both the Romans and the Greeks used mustard seeds both in the kitchen and medicinally.mustard

*It is actually one of the most popular spices traded in the world today.

* Mustard seeds can (ready for this list???) help control symptoms of asthma, can help you lose weight, can slow aging, can protect you from gastrointestinal cancer, help with migraines, relieve joint and muscle pain, lower cholesterol, stimulate hair growth, fight infection, hydrate skin, and improve immunity.


Of course, all bottles of mustard are NOT created equally. You’ll want to choose the brand with the shortest, simplest and most recognizable ingredient list… the one that contains no artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives. But after that? Go for it!

Pass the mustard, Son. I’m going to raise the white flag and surrender. I guess your mountainous mustard consumption isn’t a big deal after all.


A search on “health benefits of mustard”

will reveal a number of interesting articles.

Here’s one great source that’s

easy to read

if you’re looking for more information :

Making Trouble or Goodness?

Last week, I shared a poem from Sarah Dunning Park’s book “What It Is Is Beautiful”. Here is another poem that she’s written that spoke to my heart.

 Let There Be Yes

I say no to them all the time:

No, you may not eat candy bars for breakfast,2make

color pictures on the carpet,

wear your tutu to the store again.

And stop blowing bubbles in your milk,

or abandoning your warm bed

after I’ve tucked you in.


Perhaps it’s the wisdom of age,

or that this is not their full-time gig,

but their grandmothers have another way:

Yes, let’s make projects with plenty of glitter and paint,1make

matching costumes for you and your bear,

hot chocolate for watching movies

on a Saturday morning in June.


I decide to try it myself,

tentatively – Sure, I suppose

we can bring out the modeling clay today.

So we spread an old vinyl cloth on the table,

and dump the box that holds baggies of red and black,

blue, green, and yellow. From my post in the kitchen,

I watch them settle in to their work.


It’s quiet; no one complains

of boredom or hunger

or cunningly-orchestrated breaches of room security3make

carried out by little sisters. The only requests

are for assistance rolling up an errant sleeve

or for a toothpick to carve out fine details

and at last, the artist’s signature.


As she bends over her masterpiece

to scratch the letters of her name,

I understand what it is my mother must know

when she says yes to these young creators:

we are wired to make, and we can make

trouble, or we can make goodness and art

and meaning and sustenance and play.



As we finish out another month, let’s remember that

“we are wired to make,

and we can make trouble,

or we can make goodness and art

and meaning and sustenance and play.”


Have you been hearing a lot of complaining lately? Maybe it’s time to say ‘yes’ to some creativity.

**Many thanks to the adults in the lives of our kids who’ve said ‘yes’.**


Failures and Frappuccinos

I have already

run the dishwasher,

put away every

squeaky-clean plate

and sparkling glass;


but I have not yet

tackled the leaning tower

of soggy cereal bowls,

or that pan,

thick with bacon fat.


I have already

pulled warm, snapping towels

out of the dryer and into

my arms, folded them

in neat stacks;


but I have not yet

sorted the piles of soiled

clothes, or washed them

of their stains and

ripe smells.


I have already

drawn my children near,

tucked hair behind their ears,

told them how much

I love them;


but I have not yet

made it through a day

loving perfectly,

free of discontent, guilt,

or fear.   –by Sarah Dunning Park


Is it possible to feel like you’re accomplishing some things and yet failing at the same time? In so much of life…

As a parent, there are several things that will always be a work in progress. Meals, dishes, laundry… and loving perfectly.

Thank God that His mercies are new every morning. Thank Him that His love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on me.

Sometimes, a Momma needs to give herself permission to sit back, put up her feet, and sip on a cold, sweet drink. Whether it looks like it or not at this very moment, she IS accomplishing quite a bit because she is being a mother…. And there is no other job quite as important as that.

So this one’s for you- a frappuccino recipe. It makes two 16oz glasses – one for you and one for another mom-friend that could use a pick-me-up! Whip up a frothy, caffeinated beverage and spend some time encouraging one another. There’s a lot left to be done, yes. But there’s so much that you’re already doing too. Take a deep breath. Take one day at a time. And keep up the good work! No one else can do it quite like you.


Combine the following ingredients in a blender.

¾ c. double-strength coffee **

3T. sugar

1 c. milk

2 c. ice

3 T. Hershey’s chocolate syrup or caramel



*Double-strength coffee is made by either cutting the amount of water you normally use to brew your pot of coffee in half… or doubling the amount of coffee beans you use for the pot. Either way, it’ll turn out a bit stronger! Just the way you’ll want it for this tasty recipe.

The poem at the beginning of this post, by Sarah Dunning Park, is titled Already But Not Yet and is published in her book “What It Is Is Beautiful – honest poems for mothers of small children”.

The Frappuccino recipe was taken from the website Comfy in the Kitchen, (