Archive | October, 2013

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken and Mushrooms in Garlic Wine Sauce

30 Oct

My first new recipe not made in a crock pot in eight weeks!

My first new recipe not made in a crock pot in eight weeks!

So we survived our season of fall sports.

No more basketball and no more track, at least for now. We’re taking the next eight weeks off from anything, until after the holidays.

This means I don’t need to cook in my crock pot so many nights a week any longer.

On Monday night I made a new, non-crock pot chicken recipe. Everyone seemed to like it except Alex, because as she reminded me, chicken IS on her don’t like list. She had leftover soup. Chicken Soup.

This recipe is one I’d found on a site I use often: Skinnytaste.com, which has lots of lowfat recipes. It seemed similar to a Chicken Marsala, which we all like, but with slightly different flavors.

I’m glad I gave it a try. It was easy and tasty and I’d definitely do it again.

Here is the recipe as is seen on Skinnytaste.com. Be sure to visit their site and check out their other recipes too!

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce

Servings: 4 • Serving Size: divide between 4 • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 6 pts

Calories: 169 • Fat: 5.5 g • Protein: 22.8 g • Carb: 4.9 g • Fiber: 1.2 g • Sugar: 1.7 g

Ingredients:

    8 chicken tenderloins, 16 oz total

    2 tsp butter

    2 tsp olive oil

    1/4 cup all purpose flour* (use rice flour if gluten free)

    3-4 cloves garlic, minced

    12 oz sliced mushrooms

    1/4 cup white wine

    1/3 cup fat free chicken broth

    salt and fresh pepper to taste

    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat; when hot add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Add chicken to the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside in a warm oven.

Add additional oil and butter to the skillet, then garlic and cook a few seconds; add mushrooms, salt and pepper stirring occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, chicken broth, parsley; stir the pan with a wooden spoon breaking up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook a few more minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. Top the chicken with the mushroom sauce and serve.

Sponsored Post: My imaginary shopping spree

28 Oct

An unlimited budget? Chocolate and shopping for sure!

An unlimited budget? Chocolate and shopping for sure!

Our family has always been on a pretty strict budget. If we’d like to stretch our dollar, we have to be savvy in our spending, pretty much all the time.

We have our lists of our wants and our needs, and we pretty much always stick to the needs, very rarely splurging on the wants.

Recently, I was asked to consider how I’d spend some “me money” with an unlimited budget, and it really got me thinking.

I don’t think I’ve ever had an unlimited budget for anything before!
I tried to think of what I’d choose if I could just splurge. A pocketbook? Shoes? Clothing? Something I might want, but don’t actually need?

Chocolate?

Definitely chocolate!

I think I’d do a combination of all of it: If I had an unlimited budget, some crazy “me money” to spend, I think I’d get myself a whole new outfit, just for the heck of it, with shoes and a purse to match.

In my purse, I’d be sure to have some Lindt LINDOR milk chocolate truffles! My new favorite Lindor caramel truffles would be at the top of my list!

In fact, I think that the next time I have the urge to splurge, I might just do that–treat myself to Lindor truffles without the new wardrobe! Each time I take a bite of the irresistibly smooth chocolate center, I’ll dream about that unlimited budget shopping spree.

This is a sponsored post. However, all thoughts expressed here are my own!


Monday Musings: Playing the hand you’re dealt

28 Oct
I've always believed in playing the hand you're dealt in life, to the best of your ability.

I’ve always believed in playing the hand you’re dealt in life, to the best of your ability.

After last week’s Monday Musings post, “Celebrating the difference a year can make,” I received so many emails and messages of support. They all meant so much to me.

One in particular struck close to home as another mom spoke about her own family’s challenges with food-related issues, and how pursuing a new diet and other life changes had made all the difference for their family in the span of a year also.

Another mom-to-be spoke about growing up with a parent who had severe food allergies, and how hard that was, hoping their little one wouldn’t have food allergies.

Yet another congratulated us on our hard work as parents, since she knew first-hand what we’d gone through last year; how hard we fought to find out what was making our daughter so sick and what we could do to help her.

Last year was tough, and it was probably our toughest year yet, although I can think of a close second, a few years back, and another about three years before, and a few others before that. We’ve had lots of challenges with our three kids and their health issues, ranging from the stomach problems to childhood-onset migraines, and even the lesser-known but very challenging abdominal migraines, which are prevalent in girls ages 5-12 with a family history of migraines. Times three, starting at five years old.

It’s a lot to deal with, a lot to navigate as a parent, but I’ve always believed that you have to play the hand you’re dealt in life, and I try not to let those challenges be the thing that defines us as a family. We work hard to advocate for our kids 100% of the time and we work very hard to persevere and rise above those challenges, no matter how hard it is. I used to say that Caroline never really felt good, ever, for years, and most especially throughout most of last year, but that overall, you’d never know it. You wouldn’t know how sick she was feeling most of the time, except on her very worst days when she was so sick she could barely move. And throughout that time, she rose above it and accomplished so much. She pushed through a whole lot of pain, a whole lot of the time.

She’s my hero.

However, I know we’re not the only ones who have had our share of struggles. I know so many parents whose children have challenges as well, whether medical challenges, educational challenges, or whatever their challenges may be. I know we’re not alone, and I know there are lots of families out there, playing the hands they’ve been dealt, working hard to advocate for their kids with doctors, with teachers, in their kitchens, whatever it takes.

You’re all my heroes as well.

I know people dealing with everything and anything from Apraxia to ADHD to food allergies to Autism and everything in between.

It’s not easy. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, but you’re doing it.

A friend of mine from high school has a child with PANDAS, an often unrecognized diagnosis, and one that is life-changing in many ways, including in diet. To say it is a challenging issue to deal with is an understatement. But, she’s doing it, as a family they’re doing it, and I’m so proud of her. I watch as she takes the bull by the horns, not stopping until she has gotten the best answers, best treatment for her son. Again, It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s another parent who is just playing the hand she’s been dealt. I was thrilled a few weeks back, when I saw that she’d petitioned to have a PANDAS Awareness Day made official here in our state. She’s working hard to help her own child and so many others. I know that it makes me happy when something I’ve learned or done when navigating through our own kids’ issues, has helped other people we know who are struggling with the same or similar issues. I know that my friend is helping so many others through her own journey with PANDAS.

So today, I’m thinking of all of you.

It’s a struggle, and sometimes  it seems like you’ll never make it through another day, week or school year, or that you can’t put your child through another medical test, another hours-long educational evaluation, another new doctor’s appointment or participate in another meeting at school.

It’s a lot, but you’re all doing it, we all are, and some day your children will look back and wonder how you did it all, and they’ll be so thankful that you did.

Be strong, hang in there, keep playing your hand, and continue to be my heroes.

Fun Friday: A wonderful weekend brunch

25 Oct

This newest muffin recipe went so well with several of our other favorite recipes!

This newest muffin recipe went so well with several of our other favorite recipes!

Sometimes, it just all comes together.

One recent weekend, I tried a new muffin recipe for Honey Muffins from One Perfect Bite. They were so easy, but most of all, they were a perfect complement to two other recipes that we love.

That morning, our breakfast was just amazing.

On the menu were:

The new honey muffins

Homemade strawberry jam!!

Homemade strawberry jam!!

My homemade strawberry jam that I’d made in the crock pot

My famous baked eggs.

The greatest thing was that the jam was made ahead of time, and I actually made the eggs up the night before and reheated them in the morning, which I do a lot during the work week.

These have quickly become a staple on our breakfast menu!

These have quickly become a staple on our breakfast menu!

On this particular morning, we were heading out for the day and this breakfast filled our bellies before we went.

Here’s the recipe for the honey muffins. I did use part wheat flour and part white flour so technically they were a Honey Wheat Muffin instead of just Honey Muffins, but the recipe is otherwise the same as what One Perfect Bite posted on her blog.

One Perfect Bite’s Honey Muffins

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup honey

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease or line standard muffin cups with paper liners.
2) Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3) Combine egg, milk, butter and honey in a small bowl.
4) Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.
5) Fill prepared muffin cups three-fourths full with batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Remove from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Cranberry Chicken

23 Oct
plate of cranberry chicken and green beans

You can serve this over rice for a perfect combination of flavors!

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 6, 2011:

*To make this recipe in a lower fat version, we use a mix of 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white flour and we use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter instead of butter.*

Since it’s a frost-on-the-ground type of morning here in New England, I thought I’d post one of my favorite fall meals for you. I have posted this on FB before, and I even saw a friend on Facebook post it last night for her followers as well. It’s on my list of meals to make for dinner this week myself. I just bought a bag of cranberries on my last shopping trip. With Thanksgiving coming, I will be posting a few different cranberry recipes in the coming weeks as well. This is a meal that my entire family enjoys and a meal I’ve made often for company and so far it has always gotten rave reviews. Enjoy!

CRANBERRY CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded (I thaw 12 frozen boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins and don’t pound them. I get them at Price Rite by the bag, for those who live near a Price Rite.)
1/4 cup butter or margarine (butter all the way)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Dash ground nutmeg

cooked rice

Pan of cranberry chicken

DIRECTIONS
In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken. In a skillet melt butter over medium heat. Brown the chicken on both sides. Remove and keep warm. In the same skillet, add cranberries, water, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cook and stir until the cranberries burst (about 5 minutes.)

Return chicken to skillet. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender, basting occasionally with the sauce.

Serve over rice. Yield 4-6 servings.

Elizabeth and Cranberry Chicken

Elizabeth was so proud of this dinner. She requested it and she made almost the entire thing herself, with very little help from Daddy!

Monday Musing: Celebrating the difference a year can make

21 Oct
This cake signified more to me than just a birthday cake.

This cake signified more to me than just a birthday cake.

Caroline is about to be 14.

Her birthday is next weekend, but we celebrated with our family this past weekend.

As I was thinking about her upcoming birthday, planning out my menu and thinking about a birthday cake, I was struck by the difference a year can make.

One year ago, for her 13th birthday, we were in a very different place. She hadn’t been feeling well for months, and she was really quite sick most of the time, but we weren’t sure why.

That birthday was a rough one. She’d been to the hospital just a week or so before. She was seeing so many doctors, having lots of testing and trying to go to school each day even though she was really not herself.

She was such a trooper, and it was an intense time for us as a family; very stressful and scary for a while there.

Just before Christmas last year, it was finally determined that it was the fat in foods that was making her so sick, each and every day.

We went to town, immediately revamping our menus from top to bottom, changing our diets to make as much of what we ate low fat or non fat, as much as possible; working hard to make her well again, and it worked. It took many months, literally, for her to begin to feel well more times than she didn’t, and it’s been many weeks since she’s felt sick now that we’ve got our eating habits down pat.

One year later, here we were again, ready to celebrate another one of her birthdays.

As I Googled “Low Fat Nutella Cakes” trying to find a fun, but low fat birthday cake for her celebration, it hit me how far she’s come and how well she is, and how healthy she looks, compared to last year.

I found a great recipe, different than the birthday cakes we used to make, but good for her and with just enough sweetness to make it delightful, and I made it this weekend.

To me, this cake signified more than just a birthday. To me, it stood for how far we’ve come as a family over the past year, and specifically how well she is. In my mind, I was celebrating the difference that a year has made in her life, and in the life of our family. Last year we were in such a dark place at this time and this year, everyone is healthy and happy.

I take nothing for granted, and I celebrate every blessing. This weekend was a bigger celebration than just a 14th birthday, at least for me. So as I share this cake recipe with you, a healthy, low fat recipe from Turntablekitchen.com, know that it signifies so much more than just a cake recipe. I’m sharing with you a piece of our celebration of good health, happiness, and blessings.

Happy 14th Birthday Caroline! What a difference a year makes!

Happy 14th Birthday Caroline! What a difference a year makes!

Here is the recipe, just as it appears on Turntable Kitchen. Thanks to them for sharing a recipe that was healthy and delicious!

**Pay attention to the recipe, as the ingredients need to be mixed in a certain order, different than the way they are listed. For our own purposes, we used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and 1/3 less fat cream cheese. Using the low fat cream cheese meant we needed to add a bit more confectioner’s sugar to the top frosting, to make it sweet enough, and about a teaspoon of vanilla, to taste.

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting

*serves 6-8

 For the cake:

 1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup white sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

4 ripe bananas, mashed

2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella

1/2 cup of powdered sugar

3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar

3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.

2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.

3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.

5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.

6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.

7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

- See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.GLbbjQCw.dpuf

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting
*serves 6-8

For the cake:

1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.
5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.
7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

- See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.6Elj5jvc.dpuf

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting
*serves 6-8

For the cake:

1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.
5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.
7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

- See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.6Elj5jvc.dpuf

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting
*serves 6-8

For the cake:

1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.
5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.
7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

- See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.6Elj5jvc.dpuf

Fun Friday: Betty Crocker’s Banana-Cinnamon Muffins

18 Oct
These muffins were fabulous as an after school snack one fall afternoon!

These muffins were fabulous as an after school snack one fall afternoon!

If you’re a regular reader of The Whole Bag of Chips, you know I love muffins. I also love after school snacks.

Many times my snacks are muffins and if there’s enough leftover they are breakfast the next day too.

I can tell you…today’s recipe: none leftover.

These were so good.

I have tons of muffin recipes but I still love trying new ones. On this particular day I was looking to try a new recipe for banana muffins. When I saw one by Betty Crocker that incorporated bananas and cinnamon and sugar; well that had my name all over it.

These were so great, the kids all loved them.

I only made a minor modification: Instead of melting the butter at the end and dipping the muffins into it and then into cinnamon-sugar, I opted to just sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar on the tops prior to baking them.

Normally I also substitute plain nonfat yogurt instead of oil, but on this day I actually forgot and I used canola oil. It wasn’t until I dumped it in, that I realized I’d forgotten. So that’d be another substitute you might want to make if you’re trying to healthify the recipe a little bit more.

Here, from the Betty Crocker website is the recipe as they have it. I also linked to their site above.

Give these a try this weekend, they’re fantastic!

BANANA CINNAMON MUFFINS by Betty Crocker

INGREDIENTS

MUFFINS

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2 small)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 2/3 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
TOPPING
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
DIRECTIONS
  • Heat oven to 375°F. Grease bottoms only of 12 regular-size muffin cups with shortening or spray, or line with paper baking cups.
  •  In medium bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar, the oil and eggs with wire whisk. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in remaining muffin ingredients just until moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  •  Bake 17 to 21 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan to cooling rack.
  •  In small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Dip muffin tops into melted butter, then into cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken Broth in the Crock Pot

16 Oct
I love being able to extend a meal further and further!

I love being able to extend a meal further and further!

On Monday we went to King Richard’s Faire for the day.

We were going to be gone pretty much the entire day and coming home at dinnertime, so we decided to cook a whole chicken in the crock pot while we were gone.  The recipe we used was sent to me by my crock pot cooking partner in crime, Gina. She’d tried it a week or so ago herself and deemed it a keeper.

It is from the site 100DaysofRealCooking.com, and it looked so easy!

The best part about it though, it gave instructions for putting the bones back into the crock pot and continuing to cook them overnight, creating chicken broth!

I thought that was the greatest thing! A whole chicken dinner is usually at least two dinners for us, but this would give us a third option: chicken broth, which would be put to good use in the future for soups and other recipes.

I use a lot of chicken broth here, so I couldn’t wait to see how this worked out.

We cooked our chicken all day, as instructed. Once we ate, Don cleaned off what was left of the usable meat, and threw the rest in the crock pot with the onions and carrots we’d used for the original cook time. We filled the crock pot up with water to the top and turned it on low.

It cooked all night long. The house smelled so good!

The next morning: Done!

I can't wait to use our homemade broth in our upcoming meals!

I can’t wait to use our homemade broth in our upcoming meals!

I shut the crock pot off and let it cool down a little bit before emptying out as many big pieces of bones as I could and beginning to strain the broth into containers to freeze.

In the end I had four containers of broth for future use: two 4-cup containers and two 2-cup containers.

I put them all into the freezer and can’t wait to use them for an upcoming meal! A lot of our soups call for a chicken broth base even if they’re not a chicken soup themselves.

And the best part of all: there’s still all the leftover chicken in the fridge for a leftovers night this week as well.

I love a budget-friendly meal!

Give this one a try and let me know what you think!

Monday Musings: Everything and the kitchen sink

14 Oct

MP910221049It’s October.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A friend was just diagnosed. It’s a scary time.

I have my mammogram next week. I don’t want to think about it.

I’ve actually been waiting for October to post a book review from a book I read this summer that I absolutely loved and goes well with this month’s honoring of those who have been affected by breast cancer. We read it for our book club book in July. I’ve waited a long time.

I had a great snack idea to share that went along with it too, which I wanted to write about and to tell you the story behind, as well.

But, I also struggled with this post because I believe in honesty and being forthcoming and because part of the story that goes along with the book and the snack isn’t pretty, but I can’t not add it in or I’d feel dishonest.

I never want people to think that it’s all rainbows and roses over here at our house all the time, with kids and parenting and all that goes along with it. I share lots of great ideas and lots of great and amazing happenings but I did want to share this too, because it’s part of daily life, it’s real.

So read on, for the review, the snack and the story. Today’s post will have everything and the kitchen sink for you.

******************************************************************************************************************

The Review:

This summer for our book club, we chose to read “All You Could Ask For” by Mike Greenberg. I’ve linked to his website here for the book rather than showing the cover of the book because I don’t want to use their image without permission.

It was one of the best books I’d read recently. I absolutely loved the story of the women characters in the book, joined together by the common thread of breast cancer. It featured a social media component, as the women first “meet up” online. You know how much I love social media, so I enjoyed that aspect of the book as well. I read the book every second I had the chance. I didn’t want to put it down, and when it ended, I was sad to see it go. I wanted to keep on reading, keep on following the story. I loved, loved, loved it.

I was amazed that the author, Mike Greenberg of the famed ESPN sports talk show had written the story. It had such a female perspective to it, such insight into the minds of how women, girls, think. Lots of girl-talk, chick-flick type of behavior. That part of reading the book, thinking of how he could’ve written it as a male author, was enough to keep me turning the pages alone!

The story behind the great snack idea:

So this summer, as we often do, we were taking a family walk after dinner one night. As we walked, I was slightly behind with my younger two daughters, while Don and Caroline were up ahead. We were walking and talking and I said to them, “Girls: I need to come up with an idea for what to bring to my book club this week. It’s a pot luck. I need either an appetizer or a dessert. Help me out.”

Total concentration.

Total concentration.

Elizabeth answered me, “Well Mommy, what was the book you read about?”

I gave her the cliff notes version, telling her the basic story line about the characters and breast cancer and social media.

“That’s easy,” she said. “Make cupcakes with white frosting and make pink ribbons on them!”

I was shocked. What a great idea! I loved it. I told her I loved it and promised that yes, I’d make the cupcakes and let them frost and decorate them since it was her idea. And I’d be sure to tell everyone in the book club that the amazing pink ribbon cupcakes were her idea.

Yes, yes, yes.

She was thrilled.

So we did. I baked, they frosted, she decorated. She was SO excited. Alex of course, wanted to decorate her own in her own design, so I gave her a plate with four on it while Caroline and Liz banged out the pink ribbon cupcakes.

It was great.

Til it wasn’t anymore.

And so it goes:

I was snapping pictures because Elizabeth had also made me promise to share her great idea on my blog when I talked about the book.

They were getting silly.

Fooling around.

Moments before it all got ugly

Moments before it all got ugly

“Don’t fool around,” I said.

“Let me take my pictures,” I said.

“Stop fooling around.” My stress level was intensifying. My head was about to spin around.

Are you getting it?

Seeing where this is heading?

Within minutes, it happened.

Someone bumped someone, someone knocked the container just so, and some of the cupcakes flipped over.

I lost it.

“You ruined them!” I yelled.

Elizabeth burst into tears and ran down the hall to her room.

They weren’t totally ruined. In fact, they were pretty salvageable. I righted them and packed them up and within a little while longer, I had to leave.

I went to book club with my cupcakes, but the pride and excitement I’d felt earlier was tainted now by my frustration and my bad mood.

We had a fun evening though, we discussed the book, who liked it, who didn’t, and why, outdoors over wine and dinner and then we all went inside for dessert.

I unveiled my cupcakes. They were stunned! What a great idea, how cute!!

I told my story. It didn’t seem as big a deal as it had been in the moment, of course, but a few said they’d have reacted the same way I would have.

I felt a little better. Validated, justified.

I got home in time to sneak into Elizabeth’s room to say good night and to tell her that her cupcakes had been a hit.

“But I ruined them,” she said, crying.
STILL crying.

I wanted to die. I felt so badly for her.

I felt bad knowing that she was still so sad and that this had in fact, ruined her night too.

I told her that they weren’t ruined and that although I still felt justified in reacting as I had, that was sorry.

I laid with her til she fell asleep that night, not something I often do, but I felt better when I left at least, than I had.

To this day, months later, I still have Mommy Guilt over the way the whole thing went down.

Lessons Learned:

But, I keep reminding myself that every day and every experience won’t be perfect. We aren’t perfect parents, they aren’t perfect kids.

Things happen. In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t even a huge deal, but it weighed on me heavily and has for months and months.

During this month of October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will continue to make more of an effort to count my blessings, to remember and focus on the good and what’s gone well, and to remember that life can change on a dime. Overnight. In a split second.

If that were to happen, it’s the rainbows and roses I’ll want to remember, as well as the blessings I have and all the lessons I’ve learned.

Fun Friday: Bread and Jam

11 Oct
"Mom, you *have* to share these recipes on your blog!"

“Mom, you *have* to share these recipes on your blog!”

As a reporter and writer, I have a wacky work schedule, I’ll be the first to admit it.

Flexible, but wacky.

It’s different every single day, night and weekend, and I’m often working when a lot of people are off, but at the same time I also have a lot of flexibility to plan around the needs of my family, and that allows me to keep my focus of “family first” a top priority.

This week, after what seemed to be a crazier block of work days and nights than usual, I finally had a day off. I had a whole Wednesday day and night, where I didn’t have to work at all. I had nothing to cover, nothing to type for the newspaper, no place to be while my children were at school. Although my afternoon and evening would be busy bringing the kids to their Wednesday activities, my day was free.

Wide open.

You might think to yourself, “Oh…shopping, lunch, manis and pedis!!”  But no, I didn’t go that route. Instead, I decided that I’d use that day to the best of my ability, to cook ahead as much as I could, in order to be better prepared for the coming days when things were back to normal.

I’m so glad I did.

Focus, focus, focus! Once I got on a roll, I got a lot done!

Focus, focus, focus! Once I got on a roll, I got a lot done!

I got so much accomplished.

In one day, I cooked two banana breads, three batches of strawberry jam, 16 crustless baby quiches, six peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches to freeze ahead for lunches, and a dinner for that evening that was NOT cooked in the crock pot, of Shepherd’s Pie, which I made into seven individual pie tins just for the fun of it.

I rocked it.

I ate one of the sandwiches before it went into the freezer, but it’s okay. I earned it.

When my kids were eating their breakfast the next morning, enjoying their jam, Elizabeth said to me, “Mom you definitely have to share this recipe on your blog, it’s so good!”

And so I will share it with you today.

I can’t lie though: A big part of the secret to my success on Wednesday involved the crock pot…again!

Just when my kids thought I couldn't cook another new thing in the crock pot, I pull out the triple crock, and go to town!

Just when my kids thought I couldn’t cook another new thing in the crock pot, I pull out the triple crock, and go to town!

However, I used something different: our triple crock pot that we normally use for big gatherings–holidays, birthday parties, and big events like that. An anniversary gift from my mother-in-law years back, I never thought to use it “just” to cook in.

I don’t think I even realized that you could cook in it, since we’d always used it as a warmer to keep the food we’d pre-cooked for the parties, warm.

When a friend passed along two recipes to me, one for banana bread in the crock pot and one for strawberry jam in the crock pot, I decided to give it a try, and do it all at once in the triple crock. This would allow me to use my oven and stove top for other things at the same time so that I could get more than one thing going at a time.

I must say, I loved that option! I also have to say my house smelled AMAZING the entire day. I was hungry all day long!!

The recipes were both super-easy and super-fast to prep. My triple crock has two small wells on the sides and a larger well in the middle. For that reason, I opted to make two smaller breads using the sides and do the strawberries in the middle. I could’ve gone either way I suppose. I could also, in the future, make a double batch of breads: one larger one in the middle and two small ones on the sides.

Lots of options.

Using my crock pot freed up my oven and stove so I could cook a non-crock pot meal for dinner that night!

Using my crock pot freed up my oven and stove so I could cook a non-crock pot meal for dinner that night! Individual shepherd’s pies were fun to eat!

And, now that my bread and jam in the crock pot experiment was successful, I know that I could do this as an after school snack in the future, baking all day long while I’m gone, making the house smell warm and welcoming when we return.

The link to the bread recipe is here, from the Crockpot Ladies.com.

The link to the jam recipe is here, from The Lady Wolf.com.

I encourage you to try them both and see what you think!

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