Archive | October, 2012

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Sam’s Sizzling Tofu with Green Onions and Sugar Snap Peas

31 Oct

I’d never had tofu before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved Sam’s recipe!

One of the cool things about our DC trip for the Kids’ State Dinner in August, was being exposed to things we hadn’t had before. Some things were regional, some things were just new and different for us, but so far there hasn’t been one thing I haven’t liked that I tried from that trip.

Sam’s Sizzling Tofu is my latest winning recipe to try.

I’ve slowly been going through the cookbook making a new recipe every now and then, and Sam’s Sizzling Tofu recipe was next up on my list, simply for the fact that I’d never had tofu before and this sounded good to me.
Sam is ten and he’s from Maryland. His mom, Paula, makes him this recipe for lunch often because he doesn’t like sandwiches. Paula is also the person who made the Pumpkin Soup that I posted a couple of weeks back.

Sam and I have something in common, if you remember my post last spring, because I don’t like sandwiches either, which makes lunchtime a tough time for me each day.  I do however, like brown rice, scallions and sugar snap peas, so if I liked tofu, then I’d like this too.

We tried Sam’s recipe on a Sunday afternoon and I loved it, I even had the leftovers for lunch during the week following.

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…..

I wish I could have photographed the way Sam’s Sizzling Tofu really did sizzle. It was so cool!

Here is what Sam had to say in the cookbook about his recipe:

“Well, I don’t really eat sandwiches very well, so my mom has to find other things for me to eat for lunch,” says Samuel.

“One day I tried tofu and I liked it, so my mom got it. Then my mom was asking me what I wanted for lunch, and I asked her for the tofu. She made it and put it in a thermos. My friends wondered what it was, and a couple of them tried it and really liked it too!”

I’d definitely make Sam’s Sizzling Tou with Green Onions and Sugar Snap Peas again, and if you’ve never had tofu, I encourage you to try it too! If you are already a fan, then this recipe is for you as well. Give it a try, it’s a great side dish for your dinner and a great lunchtime recipe!

SAM’S SIZZLING TOFU WITH GREEN ONIONS AND SUGAR SNAP PEAS

Tofu…got it!

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ pound firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, white and light green parts
only, chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds
½ cup cooked brown rice
DIRECTIONS

1. In a large sauté pan over moderate heat, warm the oil.
Add the tofu and cook, stirring often, until golden brown,
about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, scallions, and sugar
snap peas, and cook 5 more minutes.

I served mine with a squirt of soy sauce on top too, yummy!!

2. While the vegetables are cooking, warm the rice in the
microwave for 1 minute on high, then serve the sizzling
tofu on top.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: I did it and I’m fine.

29 Oct

Two weeks ago, I wrote a special post in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Little did I know, how much of an effect it would have on me.

Two weeks ago I posted on here in honor of breast cancer awareness month. I wrote about a local teacher who had been newly diagnosed, and about 39 year old Meredith Israel and her three year battle with breast cancer. I wrote about how it’s stories like theirs which drive me to do what I do each day. I want to live a life with no regrets, for as much as is possible.

But I was 41 and had never had a mammogram. At 40 you can have a baseline and every year thereafter, have another.

Imagine what kind of regrets I would have if I ended up with a disease for which early detection is such a big part of the fight? Imagine what kind of role model I’d be for my three daughters if I missed this?

It was a comment on my blog from my new Kids’ State Dinner friend, Debra, that jolted me into action, booking my own mammogram that very day. Since she wrote it on my blog for all to see, I am copying it here for you to see:

I sometimes forget that people like you, Jennifer, who only met me after my treatment was complete don’t necessarily know that I’m also a breast cancer survivor. Four years ago this Halloween I did my “I turned 40 so I should have a baseline” mammogram and it came back abnormal. At the time, Madeleine was in half-day Kindergarten and Avi was in preschool 3 half-days/week. Many tests and rechecks later, I found I had an early-stage form of breast cancer. In February and March 2009 I had 2 lumpectomy surgeries and then 6 weeks of daily radiation from late April – early June 2009. Fast-forward a few years and I’m a survivor — I get checked a few times/year. Cancer-free for 3 1/2 years and counting! Get your mammogram — the best way to survive cancer is to find it early enough.

Like I said, it was this very comment that hit me on the head like a ton of bricks. What was I thinking? I’d had the paperwork for my baseline mammogram since January, five months after I’d turned 40 and nine months ago now. What was I waiting for?

I wasn’t afraid of taking the test. I wasn’t nervous about getting the results (yet). I guess I was just guilty of letting the days go by and not being one to put myself first, almost ever. Those of you who know me well, know that I spend PLENTY of time in doctor’s offices. I could practically BE a doctor by now, in any number of pediatric specialties. I guess my own “well visit” type of test just fell by the wayside.

So thanks to Debra, I called that day. I scheduled my mammogram for a week later, Monday, October 22.

I even had scheduled TWO, for a minute there, as after I scheduled one, I found out from my mom that a different place was giving out free Alex and Ani bracelets with the breast cancer “Hope” charm on them if you went and got a friend to go too. So I scheduled one there, a friend scheduled hers, and then later on I canceled the first one I’d scheduled. No free bracelet, no mammogram there for me.

It wasn’t until the night before the test that I started to get a tiny bit nervous. Had I waited too long? Was I going to be sorry for not doing it sooner? Was I going to have the biggest regret ever? What would the test show? I think I’m fine, I feel fine, but would I be surprised like Debra and so many like her had been?

Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about. They read my results right then and there, and I was fine. I got my bracelet and I even made my appointment for October 23, 2013 for my next one.

So thank you Debra, thank you Meredith and thank you to all of you who are my heroes in this fight against breast cancer (shout out to Meri K and Nicole W). There are so many out there who have lost their battle and so many still fighting today.

And I beg you: if you are 40 and haven’t had your baseline yet, take Debra’s advice above and go out and schedule it now, bracelet or no bracelet. (Although I realllly love my bracelet).

Don’t let this be your one big regret.

My new bracelet will be a constant reminder of all my friends who have fought this battle and won, those who lost the fight, and of those who are still fighting, as well as my reminder to put my own health first.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: “Roasted” Chicken Recipe and Product Review

24 Oct

Two chickens, two features today, it’s double the fun for you!

Today you get a bonus: a recipe and a product review from one of my favorite Pampered Chef products!

One of my very best friends has been a Pampered Chef consultant for many years, and every so often I pick one item I really, really want and I save up and buy it. I’m not talking a spatula for a few dollars, I’m talking about some of their higher priced items.

Their Deep Covered Baker is one of those items. It’s a product out of their stoneware line and it’s on the pricey end of the spectrum, but I can honestly tell you that it’s well-worth the money.

The Deep Covered Baker is a lifesaver when roasting a chicken! No more all day bake times!

I can also honestly tell you that the very first night we owned ours, we broke it.

I say we.

I won’t say exactly who.

Thankfully, Pampered Chef has a fantastic warranty program for their stoneware.

We have used our baker twice in just a few weeks’ time and this past week we “roasted” two small chickens in it, in the microwave, using my favorite Pampered Chef recipe. That’s the recipe I’m including for you below. You literally “roast” your chicken in the microwave for 30-45 minutes depending on the size, and you’ve got dinner on the table in less than an hour. When we made ours this week we also had stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and homemade gravy, all of which we made while the chicken was roasting in the microwave.

We had plenty of leftovers left to make chicken salad for lunches, and last time we did this we made a new meal with our leftovers, one which I’ll share with you in the future. For now, here’s today’s recipe.

Throw it all in, throw it all in the microwave, throw it all on the table.

Thirty Minute Roasted Chicken
INGREDIENTS

4-5 pound fryer chicken (or two smaller ones as we did here)
1 stick butter
3 celery stalks, 3 whole carrots
4 cloves fresh garlic (I was out so I used minced)
1 whole yellow onion

DIRECTIONS

Spray the baker and lid with oil (I used no stick spray).

Place chicken, breast side up in the baker.

Melt butter in prep bowl and press garlic into butter. Spread over chicken with a brush.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Be sure that your chicken has reached the proper temperature!

Cover and microwave for 30 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees (we usually need 40-45 minutes).

Your chicken comes out cooked, moist, and ready to eat! Be sure to check the temperature before serving.

You can use your drippings to cook up a homemade gravy to go on top and serve the veggies that you cooked in the dish, on the side as well.

Oftentimes we will throw our chicken in the oven either on bake or broil on a separate baking sheet, just to crisp up the skin a little more, but it’s not necessary to do so. You can bake with your covered baker in the oven as well, but you cannot broil in it.

(Should you want to make your roasted chicken in the covered baker in your oven, bake at 400 degrees for 70-80 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees, with the cover on. Remove the cover for the last ten minutes to crisp up your skin.)

A cookbook is available from Pampered Chef for the Deep Covered Baker as well, featuring twenty recipes you can use your Deep Covered Baker for, utilizing both the oven and the microwave. It was my very next purchase once I had the covered baker itself!

Enjoy!

A perfect fall dinner that doesn’t need to wait for a time when you have the entire afternoon to make it!

First One In Bed

22 Oct

Nighttime means bedtime.

During the summer, bedtime is a free-for all. It doesn’t matter who goes to bed when and there’s usually no reason to get up early in the morning, so everyone can sleep late if they need to.

The school year is a whole different ballgame though.

Recently on Facebook, a lot of my friends have been venting about the tough job of getting kids to bed on time, in a reasonable manner. My kids are older now and our routines are pretty set at this point, but I *so* remember those days.

Setting a bedtime routine is so tough. You have to determine a bedtime, first off and then stick to it. You have to determine what you’re willing to do at bedtime (read a story? Watch an episode of something? Have a tickle fight?) and what you’re not. You have to make sure the kids do their jobs at bedtime (“bathroom, hands and teeth” is our mantra to this day) and still make sure they’re in bed on time.

Sometimes it seems like you need to start at noon in order to get them in bed, on time, with everything done, and staying in bed.

Early on, when we just had Caroline, we’d watch one short video (on a video TAPE) before bed. That worked well for her, as a wind-down routine, and we’d read a story.

With Elizabeth, we found that watching TV wound her up, instead of winding her down.

With Alex, I think most nights we practically threw her in (figuratively, not literally), shut off the light and shut the door, she was so easy.

But there came a time when we had preschoolers and toddlers that getting all three in bed on time just seemed hopeless. We had three kids with three different bedtime routines and we needed to figure out what one thing would work for all of us. It didn’t seem possible.

Until we came up with The First One in Bed challenge.

I don’t even know which one of us came up with it, to be honest.

Let’s just say it was me, for now. ;)

It probably wasn’t though. Don’s always better at creating a challenge.

In a nutshell, here’s how it worked:

Each child had a sticker book (which was a small notebook of some sort, I remember two of them had Strawberry Shortcake on them at one point) and we parents had a big ole’ pile of stickers. All different kinds of stickers worked best, rather than just one kind.

The challenge was to be the First One in Bed. If you were, with all your jobs done, you got three stickers. Second one in bed got two and the last one in bed got one. Or maybe it was four, three and two. I don’t remember, but you get the gist.

You had to be in bed, under the covers in order to pick out your stickers. You had to already have done the whole “bathroom, hands, and teeth” routine.

You had to yell it from your room, really loud: FIRST ONE IN BEEDDDDDD!!!!!!

The others would follow, yelling out that they were in bed too. Ties were allowed. We didn’t want to start a fight or make anyone cry, rather we wanted to get everyone in bed and fast, so we could go out in the living room and sit down for more than three seconds at a clip.

Elizabeth in particular is VERY competitive and loves a challenge. She wanted to win EVERY time. She was known to leap over a smaller child and roll the rest of the way down the hall, in order to get into that bedroom first. (Well not really, but she’d race down that hallway and leap into bed, for sure.)

She was also known to get in there and not be 100% honest about whether her teeth were brushed, and have to get back up, losing her First One in Bed spot.

Their goal was to fill their notebook pages with stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.

This went on for months and months, until somehow we phased it out. I don’t remember how or when, but it was a while ago.

The point is, it worked for us. We were able to create a bedtime routine that worked for all of our kids and let us keep our sanity at the same time. It only cost us a few stickers and a few notebooks.

Hopefully this will help someone else with that particularly challenging time at their house too. I hope so. If not, maybe it’ll spark a different idea that works for you and your child/children at bedtime.

And in our house, to this very day, there are still some occasional nights when we hear someone yell out from their rooms, “FIRST ONE IN BED!!!!” just for the fun of it.

A word about re-runs

19 Oct

Yup, I’m already thinking now about my holiday baking!

Fall is here, and winter is coming. Last year I began posting daily around this time of year, in order to fit in all of my holiday-worthy and seasonal recipes.

I also featured winter crafts and children’s book recommendations to go along with each of the recipes in December.

This year I will be re-running some of those recipe posts as I see fit, in order to let my newer followers in on those yummy treats. Although I do try out new recipes once a week or so, when it comes to my holiday baking, I am steeped in tradition and I do not veer off that path very often. Therefore, I won’t have 20 new Christmas Cookie Tray recipes for you again this year, since I shared most all of my tray treats with you last year. So if you are a regular, long-time reader, you may see a few things that ring a bell as looking awfully familiar. I hope those re-runs will remind you that you always wanted to try that recipe last year and never got to, or that you loved it so much you can’t wait to make it again.

In the meantime, if you’d like to look back at my holiday treats from last year right now, you can type in Pumpkin Palooza (Thanksgiving) or Your Tray or Mine? (Christmas), or even click on November and December 2011 to take a look!

As always, if you have a recipe you’d like me to try, feel free to email it to me and I’ll add it to my list, which is super-long, of things I want to try one day! Thank you in advance for sharing your recipes with me and for being such a great, supportive blog audience!

Jen

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Paula’s Pumpkin Soup

17 Oct

Fantastic for fall!

I’m actually eating Paula’s Pumpkin Soup as I type this post today. It’s my lunch on this autumn day, and it’s a perfect fall crock pot recipe!

Paula is a new friend of mine from the Washington DC Kids’ State Dinner trip. Many of us have kept in touch since the trip through a Facebook page. Paula has been a great friend and a fan of The Whole Bag of Chips. I’m thrilled to feature her recipe on here today.

It’s fast and easy and it was great for our day this past Sunday, which was filled with an afternoon of family fun at Don’s school, followed by a later afternoon of football, laundry and errands. Having dinner cooking in the crock pot on a day like that, couldn’t have been more helpful. I also threw a beer bread in the oven to go with it, since I can’t picture having a thick, hot soup such as this one, without a slice of beer bread to go along with it.

Here is the recipe for Paula’s Pumpkin Soup. Just to note, I doubled this recipe, using two quarts of stock and a 29 ounce can of pumpkin.

Thank you Paula for passing it along!
Enjoy!

I loved the added flavor that the sausage and onions gave to the soup.

INGREDIENTS

One quart chicken broth (low sodium and low fat)
One can pumpkin puree
1/2 TSP nutmeg
One half an onion
Garlic to your liking
Sweet italian turkey sausage
1 – 1 1/2 cups brown rice and quinoa
DIRECTIONS

Sauté the sausage, onion and garlic in olive oil until the sausage is done.

Put everything but the brown rice and quinoa in the crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Add the cooked brown rice and quinoa 30 minutes before serving.

If you prefer, orzo also makes a nice addition to this recipe.

Nothing like crock pot cooking on a busy day!

Breast cancer awareness month and why I do what I do

15 Oct

October is breast cancer awareness month!

Last week I had the privilege of covering a story at our local high school where the student body had come up with several ways to show their support for a teacher recently diagnosed with breast cancer and to raise money for the breast cancer cause itself. It was an amazing show of support. The students had given their all, and it showed. The American Cancer Society will greatly benefit from their donations. I felt blessed to be there as a witness to it. (I have put the link here in case anyone wants to make their own charitable contribution to ACS.)

According to the principal, the teacher is a young woman with a young family.

My worst fear.

Every mother’s worst fear, right?

It was Meredith Israel’s worst fear as well. I don’t know Meredith but about ten days ago my brother sent me the link to her blog post, which the Huffington Post had just posted on their site as well. He doesn’t know Meredith but she’s the friend of a friend and he was so moved by her writing.

When he gave me the heads up as to what the content of her blog was, and that she had a five year old daughter, I couldn’t read it.

But eventually I did.

And I’ll never forget it.

I won’t give you the details because you’ll want to read it yourself.

Or maybe you won’t be able to either.

But as I read it, and as I thought about my own life and family, I thought to myself, “See, this is why I do what I do.”

So often I’m told, “I don’t know how you do it all,” but really it’s not the how, because most days I don’t know how either, but it’s the why.

Clearly I’m an overachiever, and I definitely can’t sit very still for very long. But I wasn’t always this way. It wasn’t until I became a mother and I began having those fears every mother has, the “What if something happens to me,” fears. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t worry about that, even deep down.

Those fears awakened in me the drive that keeps me going every day. It’s the drive and the desire to have no regrets. For as much as humanly possible, I want to have no regrets, looking back. That’s why I do the things I do, whatever that may be, why I give 110% to everything I do, especially if it involves my children.

Now I know that the chances of something happening to me are probably slim, and I also know I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, as they say. But I look at it kind of like life insurance. You pay it all along, hoping you never need it, but when and if you do, you’re so glad you did it all along.

Should something happen to me, looking forward I’d be sad for what I’ll miss in the future, but looking backward, I will have no regrets. I’ll know I did it all, as much as I could, to live each day with no regrets, to spend every moment possible with my children and my husband and my family; and to make the moments count.

Meredith Israel said it well in her recent post; a great piece of advice, definitely words to live by, in my opinion:

“Until then, live each day to the fullest, laugh at the stories from your past, laugh at something at least one time that day and hug those you love.”

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