Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kickin Chicken Orzo Recipe

        There's something so exhilarating about creating your own recipe.  Even moreso when it's delicious!  And even moreso when everyone exclaims how delicious it is, and asks for the recipe!  So here it is =)



Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Chicken Breasts or 8-`12 drumsticks (legs)
  • Adobo seasoning
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil or Pam Spray
  • Sofrito (Goya, mexican seasoning)
  • Recaito (Goya, Mexican seasoning)
  • 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 box of Orzo pasta (looks like giant rice)
  • 3 chicken bullion cubes, or equal amount of bullion powder
  • 1/2 C Sour Cream or Heavy Cream
  • Turmeric (spice)
Instructions:
  1. Preheat cast iron (or whatever you're workin' with) skillet over medium-high heat w/ a small bit of Olive Oil or Pam to prevent sticking. Also preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Remove chicken from fridge, and let it sit 20-30 minutes to take off the chill slightly.
  3. Generously sprinkle chicken w/ Adobo & Pepper.
  4. Place chicken in hot skillet, a few pieces at a time, do not overcrowd.
  5. Peek at the underside after several minutes, and when it's nice and dark brown, flip it over to get the other side browned well too.
  6. Remove to a 9x13 oven-safe casserole dish, and repeat with remaining chicken.
  7. Using about 1/2 jar of each (Sofrito & Recaito) spread them evenly over the browned chicken.  Dump both cans of Rotel evenly over top of the chicken.
  8. Cover your dish in foil, and place in preheated oven, for about 45min to 1hr.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a stockpot of water to a boil.  Add your chicken bullion.
  10. Once your water is at a rolling boil, cook the Orzo according to the package.
  11. Drain Orzo once cooked, reserving 1/2 C cooking liquid, and return it to the stockpot.
  12. Add the reserved liquid, sour (or heavy) cream, and Turmeric to taste.  (start at 1/2tsp and go from there)
  13. Stir together Orzo & ingredients, and keep warm until the chicken is ready.
  14. When chicken is ready, spoon a large helping of Orzo onto a plate, and top with chicken, tomatoes, & liquid from the casserole dish.
  15. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza

     

        It was one of those days... We slept in until 11:30am (yes, my 18 month old loves to sleep, be very jealous), which led to a late nap, waking up around 6:30pm and panicking with thoughts of what's for dinner... I immediately ran to my freezer, and after gazing upon the last two lonely, frozen chicken breasts from last weeks stock-up sale, I had a vision.  No, I had a dream.  I had a dream that I could feed 6 ravenous carnivores with these 2 solitary chicken parts.

        I pride myself in 3 things.  1. My monkey feet - I can pick up almost anything with my feet - sans socks.  2. My cooking - and I'm not even Italian.  and 3. My frugality - I am a self-taught couponer, menu-planner, money-saving wonder woman, and if anyone can stretch a small amount of ingredients, you're looking at her - well, her blog...

        Anyway, back to the point.  After employing a basic pizza dough recipe (in my shiny new Kitchenaid *see right)  I was ready to go.  This recipe might seem intimidating, and it does take awhile because there are so many steps, but I made FOUR good sized pizzas from this, and it could be easily doubled, or tripled, and the ingredients keep well either in the fridge, or in a air-tight freezer bag, for long-term storage.  Pizza ingredients freeze wonderfully, and are great for a quick, last-minute dinner!  Enjoy!

Dough Ingredients (makes 4  10 inch pizzas):


  • 2 C Warm Water
  • 2 Tbsp Instant Yeast
  • 4 Tbsp Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 4 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 5 1/2 C All-Purpose Flour

  • Instructions (you can do this without a stand-mixer, I did many times until last week!):

    1. Fill the mixing bowl you'll be using with hot/boiling water, to get/keep the ingredients warm.  Let the water sit about 30 seconds, then dump it out and begin. This will help your overall rise.
    2. Mix the warm water, yeast, and sugar together with a whisk, and let it sit about 5-10 mins until foamy.
    3. Add in the rest of the ingredients and either set your mixer to 2 (lowest speed) for 5 minutes, or mix and knead by hand 8-10 minutes.
    4. Grease a warm bowl and place your dough inside, and set it inside of a warm (not hot) oven to rise for about 1-2hrs.
    5. After it's risen, flour your hands and the counter lightly, remove the dough and divide into 4 equal sections (or however many you designed the recipe for).
    6. Form a ball with each section, by stretching and pinching the dough until smooth.  Roll/flatten each ball into a 10-12 inch circle.  The easiest way to do this is to roll it out as far as you can, let it sit several minutes for the gluten to settle, then roll/press it again to desired width.
    7. Place a generous amount of cornmeal or semolina on your pizza peel (or flat cookie sheet) and transfer your dough to it to.
    8. Place your toppings on.  Ingredients & Instructions follow =)

    Ingredients:
    • 2 Chicken Breasts
    • Parmesan Cheese
    • Salt, Pepper, Paprika
    • Green and/or Red Bell Pepper, diced
    • Corn Kernals (frozen, canned, or fresh)
    • 1 small raw onion, thinly sliced
    • Sharp White Cheddar
    • Barbeque Sauce (recipe follows)
    • Olive Oil
    Instructions:
    1. Preheat your pizza stone in the oven.  I crank my oven up all the way (500F) and let it preheat atleast 45minutes.  You want it HOT so that your crust starts cooking immediately.  If you don't have a pizza stone, GET ONE!
    2. Using a filet knife, or something really sharp, make thin cutlets of the chicken.
    3. Season the chicken cutlets with salt, pepper & paprika, and place it in a skillet preheated to medium-high.  The chicken should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan if the pan is hot enough.  Fry the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, until it's nice and browned and cooked through.  Remove to a plate and set aside to cool.  After cooled, chop the chicken up into bite-sized pieces.
    4. Add some olive oil to the skillet, and fry your diced pepper for a minute or two over medium-high heat aswell.  They should immediately sizzle, and brown/soften quickly.
    5. Now you're ready to assemble your pizza.
    6. Rub a small amount of olive oil over your dough, this adds flavor and also keeps the dough from soaking up too much sauce and getting soggy.
    7. Place your toppings.  BBQ sauce first, then parmesan cheese, chicken, pepper, corn, raw onion, and cheddar.
    8. Turn your oven down to about 450F, and dust your pizza stone with a bit of cornmeal, be careful it's HOT.  Slide your prepared pie off of the peel/cookie sheet and onto the pizza stone.  Cook for about 12-15 minutes, until the crust is slightly golden brown.  You don't want it to cook too long, or it will make the crust too hard!
    9. I use tongs to slide my pizza off of the stone, back onto the cookie sheet when it's finished.  From there I just let it cool a few minutes, then slice and serve!  Yum!

    Apple BBQ Sauce:

    Mix everything in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for about an hour or until thickened.  I actually ended up adding a bit of cornstarch to thicken it at the end, because I'm impatient, but you can let it cool and it'll thicken up a bit too.  

    1 C of marinara sauce (or tomato sauce)
    2 C freshly juiced apple juice
    1/4 tsp kosher salt
    1/3 C molasses
    1/4 C cider vinegar
    1/4 C packed dark brown sugar
    2 Tbsp white sugar
    1.5 tsp Chile Powder
    1/2 tsp Celery Seed
    1,25 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground cloves
    pepper to taste

    Saturday, October 12, 2013

    Chili Recipe

            Sometimes, you find something so delicious, so perfect, that it doesn't need a fancy name or catchy title accompanying it.  Sometimes your creation is so perfect that you can't speak, let alone come up with a clever intro for it.  So here is my chili recipe. (Adapted from: cdkitchen.com recipe HERE )



    Ingredients:

    • 2.5 lbs ground beef or 1.5 lbs ground beef & 1 lb pork or other ground meat
    • 1 tbsp bacon fat
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 5 cloves chopped garlic
    • 12 oz beer
    • 8 oz tomato sauce
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 3 tbsp chili powder
    • 2 tbsp cumin
    • 2 tbsp beef bullion
    • 2 tsp ground oregano
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 tsp coriander
    • 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce (I also add a dash of Cayenne, but leave this out if you don't want things too spicy)
    • 1 can Rotel, undrained
    • 1 can (12-18 oz) of chili beans, drained not rinsed

    Directions:

    1. Brown the meat in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned.
    2. Drain fat & discard.  Remove meat to a bowl and set aside for now.
    3. Heat bacon grease in the skillet, add onion and garlic and cook until tender.
    4. Add beer and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of pan to get all the brown delicious crusties.
    5. Add remaining ingredients and bring back to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
    6. After 2 hours, mix the following in a measuring cup:
    • 1 tsp flour
    • 1 tbsp cornmeal
    • 1 tbsp warm water
         7.  Add this mixture to the chili, mix well, cover and cook for another 20 minutes.
         8.  Serve with cornbread & butter on the side, with toppings of choice (sour cream, cheese, Frito's,           etc).

    Enjoy!

    *Notes:  Last time I made this, I used half ground beef & half ground steak (Tyson Grilled N Ready Steak, ground up in blender) and it was SO tasty!

    Saturday, October 5, 2013

    Collection of some of my favorite quotes

    Check out my other posts for everything from recipes, rants, ideas, homeschool tips, & more!

    Just keeping this page as a way to collect some of my favorite quotes!


    Friday, October 4, 2013

    Cheddar Bay Biscuits - Recipe



            We don't make a habit of eating out too often, because it's way cheaper (not to mention healthier in most cases) to make our own food!  However, when we do eat out, one of our favorite places is Red Lobster!  Cheddar Bay Biscuits are a huge part of this decision!  I try to limit myself to one or two as to save room for the upcoming appetizers and main dish, but it's so difficult!  These biscuits are heavenly, especially when they're fresh and hot!  The great thing about making them at home is that they can always be fresh and hot!  

            This recipe is super easy, and DELICIOUS!  The secret to these, I think, is a trick that I've picked up over the years in making pie dough, and other "flaky" delicacies (grating frozen butter, working quickly, and minimal mixing).  I found the base for this recipe over at Brown-Eyed Baker's blog and just tweaked it until I found it perfect.  My husband couldn't stop eating these, and when asked how they compared to Red Lobster's version, was heard saying "They're even better!"  

    Dough Ingredients:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp (generous) garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp (generous) cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 c buttermilk (I literally never have buttermilk hanging out in my fridge... so I just add about 1 tbsp of vinegar to a measuring cup, then fill it the rest of the way with cow's milk, whisk gently, let sit 10 minutes, and there you have it - buttermilk!)
  • 1/2 c salted butter (1 stick)

  • Topping Ingredients:

    • 3 tbsp melted butter
    • ½ tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp dried parsley
    • dash of Old Bay

    Directions:

    1. 475° for your oven.  Line a nice sized baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Prepare your buttermilk (as directed above) so that it's ready when you are.
    3. Take a mallet and (with your butter still in the wrapper) flatten your butter a bit, this just increases the surface area and makes it freeze faster.  [*note: you can certainly skip this step if you are the type of person who plans ahead and isn't perpetually running late making dinner]
    4. Sift together your dry ingredients until very well combined.
    5. Add in the grated cheese, a little at a time, mixing to combine so that the cheese doesn't clump up.
    6. Once your butter is frozen, remove it from the freezer and work quickly!  The butter will immediately start to soften/melt, especially as you hold it in your sweaty paww, so time is of the essence here.  Grate your butter with a hand grater - over your bowl, like the cheese - a little at a time, stirring often to coat the butter shreds with flour mixture, to ensure it doesn't clump up.
    7. Add your buttermilk and stir only until all ingredients are moist.  You will end up with a final product that even your dog will be ashamed of if you get carried away mixing biscuits, you biscuit mixer you.  Say that 5 times fast.  Bixing Miscuiter.
    8. These are drop biscuits so do the right thing and drop them, onto your baking sheet.  I ended up with 9 biscuits one day and 12 the next, so it really depends on what size you make them and how precise you feel like being.   I just eye it up, and you should too, if you value your sanity.
    9. Bake these lovelies for 8-12 minutes, until the edges are golden and the scent overwhelms you to the point where you are considering the repercussions of reaching into the inferno known as your oven and taking a bite now.  It's not worth it buddy, you'll need those taste buds for what's coming.
    10. While the biscuits are baking, mix your topping ingredients and set aside.
    11. Remove your biscuits, immediately brush with the topping & let them sit 4-5 minutes on the sheet, then remove to a cooling rack to finish - um - cooling.  
    12. Enjoy!

    Friday, September 6, 2013

    9/30 Things - Influential People

            We are impacted by everyone we meet and every experience we have, in one way or another.  Sometimes we can be influenced by those we have never met, but have read about or know of.  Those influences can be either good, bad, or neutral.  Usually, those who make the biggest impact on our lives will be remembered for always.  I chose the people on this list because they have made an impact on my life in one way or another.  I honestly don't think of myself as a very easily influenced person, but I wanted to do this challenge, so I'm just going to go with what pops in my head!


    1. Jesus.  He died on the cross not just for me but for everyone, and has given us the gift of eternal life. 
    2. My husband.  He loves me unconditionally, and we have grown a lot together as a couple, as parents, and both in maturity and spirituality.  He is my life partner, and he has taught me so much.
    3. My pastor.  He has a hunger for God that I have not seen in many people.
    4. My mom. She's the most selfless person I know, she would do anything for anyone without thinking twice.
    5. My mother-in-law.  She's an extremely hard worker, and she's one of the most forgiving and loving people I've ever met.
    6. Gianna Jessen. While I haven't had the chance to meet her, she's been such an inspiration and has encouraged me to fight for the pro-life cause, and fight to end abortion.  She survived an abortion attempt in her mother's womb which left her disabled (but not defeated!), and now is a strong voice for the unborn.



            I struggled to think of more than 6 (the challenge was for 10) so I left it at that.  What does it take for someone to earn a spot on your list?

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    8/30 Things - 5 Passions

            Fittingly enough, after just posting about Passion Monday, my blog challenge for the day is on 5 passions!  Passion describes an intense, and "barely controllable" emotion.  When we are passionate about something, we are obsessed with it and put our all into it.  Passion is aggressive, strong, and full of feeling.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/passion

    1. Pro-life - I am VERY passionate about being pro-life.  I believe that God put this on my heart, and it is a huge passion of mine.  I hope to be able to start a boarding house in the future to help mothers facing unplanned pregnancies.  I try to educate as many people as I can on the dangers and truths of abortion, and help both the babies AND the mothers/fathers/families involved.  All life is precious.
    2. Attachment Parenting - Cosleeping/bedsharing, breastfeeding, babywearing, gentle parenting, having a deep connection and open/honest relationship with one's children.
    3. My Marriage/Family - This kind of goes along with the attachment parenting theme... Being close and spending quality time together.  Making time for each other.
    4. Relationship with God - This is above all, the most important foundation for building any relationship.  I am passionate about seeking God.  To be completely honest, I had more passion when I was first saved, but I am striving towards getting that passion back.  I pray and ask God to give me a thirst for His word, and to help me spend more time seeking him and sharing the good news with others.
    5. Food - Well, I love baking and cooking, so this is a no-brainer.  I love finding new recipes, preparing my ingredients, and just the whole process!

    Wednesday, September 4, 2013

    7/30 Things - Dream Job

            Some little girls dream about being princesses when they grow up. Some, however, are more realistic.  Usually, our ideal job / career is different than what we imagined it to be in our childhood.  Personally I've changed my mind several times over the years.  I recall reading somewhere that the part of our brains responsible for rational thinking and decision making don't even form until our mid-twenties.  That explains a lot - about a lot.

            As a youngin', I dreamt of being a veterinarian, oddly enough I don't even really like animals now.  I mean don't get me wrong, if I see a turtle crossing a highway I'll stop to help him, or if I see a cute kitten I'll oogle over it for about 70 seconds, but that's about it... After I realized what being a vet entailed, I moved on to bigger and better aspirations.  Next up was psychologist.  To this day, I'm still quite fascinated by psychology, and if I had the patience and determination to withstand the years of schooling - I don't- I might pursue this field!  Another fascination of mine was being a lawyer.  This is another one that, through the years, has stuck with me as an interesting and desirable field.  My only qualms about this (besides my father telling me I'd have to read a ton of books on law, and I'd never stop reading because there would always be something new to learn) is the concept that most lawyers "lie".  I don't like liars.  Point blank period exclamation point times infinity.  I mean, yeah I understand that you don't "have" to lie, but I've always been under the impression that they twist the truth at the least.

            Now, back to reality.  My dream "job" would be to own my own bakery. Whether that is from home, or a store-front is up for debate.  I am currently working on a business plan to sell baked goods and food from home for now, with the prospect of eventually making it "big".  That said, my true dream "job" wouldn't be considered a job in the sense that I wouldn't be getting paid.  One day I hope for us to be able to build an addition onto our house (probably not our current house, but who knows) and have boarding available for crisis pregnancies.  I would like to work with a local pregnancy center to help young / scared moms facing unplanned pregnancies have a place to stay, learn, and raise their babies until they are stable enough to be on their own.  I would want to help them in any way that I could including cooking for them, giving them rides, providing clothing, helping them find work while providing childcare while they work, etc...

            Ideally, I could run my bakery along with this boarding house, and the bakery would help fund this (non-profit) project.  I want us to be comfortable and happy, rich isn't the goal.  I mean, don't get me wrong, the occasional cruise / vacation would be great, and having the latest laptop wouldn't be too bad either (I love my internet), but a dream job should be your passion, not avenue to riches.

    Tuesday, September 3, 2013

    Ignite the fire of your marriage - Passion

            Two of my favorite bloggers, Time-Warp Wife & Women Living Well have just released their newest Marriage Series, entitled: Ignite the fire.  It's a 3 week series, with a different sub-topic each Monday.  This week the hot topic is passion, and it truly is a hot topic!

            We're all familiar with that "butterflies in the tummy" feeling of young love, yes?  The feeling you get when he walks into the room, grabs your hand, or even when you just get a text ;) from your new beau?  Why doesn't he do that anymore? we ponder.  Why did he stop wooing me?  How did holding hands turn into walking single file down a grocery aisle?  When did passing love notes back and forth turn into a plastering a "honey-do list"a mile long on the fridge with an old raggedy magnet?  How did romantic evenings with a glass of wine and candlelight turn into Chinese take-out in front of the TV?


            I remember reading something awhile ago, and while I can't find the exact text, it went something like this:  
    A woman was reflecting back on her relationship with her husband, and she noticed that over the years, little things they used to do together became less and less frequent.  One of the biggest changes she noticed from when they had started dating was in their car rides together.  The woman reminisced on how her husband used to drive with one hand on the steering wheel and the other around her shoulder.  A sign of pride that she was his girl, and he was hers.  They'd ride all through town, side by side, singing along to the radio.  One day, while taking a trip to the grocery store, she decided to confront her husband about this.  "Dear, I've noticed that over the years, you stopped putting your arm around my shoulder as we are traveling in the car, and honestly we're sitting too far apart now for it to be possible! What happened?"  Her husband simply replied, "My darling, the steering wheel didn't move, you did."
            The point of this story is that sometimes, while we think it's our spouse who is pulling away, it's really us.  In all honesty, it takes two to tango, but things have to start somewhere.  The biggest lesson here is that you can't fix your spouse, you can only work on YOUR side of the equation.  

            Passion seems to fade in even the strongest relationships over the years, unless that fire is constantly kindled.  We have to actively seek out our husbands, we have to pursue them like we did early in the relationship, show them that we are attracted to them both physically and emotionally.  Sometimes we get so into our routines, that we forget to do the little things that mean so much.  A simple back rub after a long day of work, or making a favorite treat for after dinner can mean so much.  

            Living with someone is a lot different than dating them, and seeing all of their little habits morning noon and night will bring some things to light that didn't "exist" in the dating world.  Snoring, passing gas, morning breath, leaving the toilet seat up, and other unattractive sides of your significant other will suddenly overshadow the way he smelled when he picked you up for dinner on your second date, or the perfectly groomed hair he seemed to always be sporting.  


            This video has been circling around the internet in the past few weeks, and has become somewhat "viral" in that so many people have watched & shared it.  Rightfully so, what a true testament of love... 75 years together and this couple was still madly in love.  So many moments shared and memories savored through the years.  I pray that God gives my husband and I at least that long together.


            While the chase for our spouse might be over, we should never stop chasing after his heart.  We need to find those things that brought us close early in the relationship and make time to share those moments together to rekindle that flame often.  Even with kids, jobs, school, and life keeping us busy, we cannot forget to make time for our partner.  Spending a life together means working through the good and bad, the sickness and the health, whether rich or poor, and making a real effort to stay in love.  Love isn't a feeling, it's a choice.  A choice that needs to be renewed every day.


            Here's the schedule for this marriage challenge:

    September 2nd – Ignite Your Passion
    September 9th – Ignite Your Kindness
    September 16th – Ignite Your Dreams
                - Won't you follow along?



    Week 1 Challenge:
    Ignite passion in your marriage by investing into your husband joyfully. This may look different in every marriage, the challenge is to focus on an area of your marriage that is a little weak and pour time, energy and love into it.
    Copy this button to your blog and join us!

    6/30 Things - The Hardest Thing

            It's hard to pinpoint the hardest thing that I've ever experienced.  Having been a young mom in a unhealthy relationship at the time, that would probably be near the top of my list, except for the fact that I had the immense support of my mother and father to help me.  Although I was originally super apprehensive about them finding out about my pregnancy, they were very loving and supportive.  I thank God every day that my parents were pro-life and never even suggested abortion, although that would have been the "easy way out" at the time.

            I think back to a friend I had, the same age as me, earlier that same year, who found herself with an unplanned pregnancy.  Her child would have been mere months older than my son.  I still sometimes imagine what it would have been like.  Would we still be friends?  Would our children be friends?  It literally breaks my heart to think about, and I don't think I'll ever completely get over it.  Part of me hurts because, although I was 15/16 years old, I can't help but think that maybe there was something that I could have said to change her mind.  In the back of my mind, I know that there is nothing I could have done, but it still haunts me.

            Anyway, yes being a young mom was hard.  But I wouldn't change anything if I could.  My son is such an intelligent, funny, and caring kid.  He's also a big brother now, and he just loves his sister to pieces.  I wouldn't take back any of the difficult moments in my life, because I feel that during those moments is when we are shaped and molded into what we are today.  The difficulties we face define us, and how we deal with them empowers us to face what's ahead.

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    5/30 - 5 Things That Make Me Happy

            Happiness.  Feeling pleasure, satisfaction, or joy.  A state of well-being and contentment.  How many people today can say that they are truly happy?  I don't mean the kind of happy that you feel on those days when you wake up and manage to not stub your toe while heading to Wawa to find out that they have your favorite pumpkin spice coffee when you arrive, your work day goes smooth and quick, & before you know if you're home and the kids already have their homework finished and your husband decides to take you out to dinner and give you the night off.  No, not that kind.  That's superficial happiness.  Temporary bliss.  Tomorrow your dog might pee on your new Coach purse, or you might break a nail before you even leave the house, and then it's all downhill from there.  I'm talking about unshakable happiness.  Joy, actually.  The kind of happiness that doesn't come and go, it stays with you, it is you.  Joy that fills your heart, and although the storms may come, you will not be shaken, you will not be stirred.  Yes, you're allowed to pout, you can even cry, but at the end of the day you know where your joy comes from and you don't let life get you down.

            So, for this challenge, I'm asked to list 5 things that make me happy "right now".  I'm assuming that it's referring to superficial things and not asking me to get super deep here, but whatever, I'm as deep as an ocean baby, so deal.

    1. My husband - He makes me happy most of the time, except for those times when he doesn't. HA!  That's where love comes in!  Love is caring for each other even when you're angry.  We are genuinely happy with one another, so even when we have disagreements like every married couple does, we work through them and become stronger!
    2. My kids - They make me happy most of the time too!  Right now my daughter is too young to make me mad, and she's just too darn squishy cute too!  My son is at that age where he's testing boundaries, and learning to talk back, although he's mostly respectful and usually corrects himself quickly!  I love spending time with them and watching them learn, play, and grow!
    3. Being a stay at home mommy - I love being able to devote myself fully to my husband, children, and home. 
    4. Cooking/Baking - One of my favorite past times... I get such a thrill making stuff in the kitchen, and the best part is the faces of family & friends when they taste and love my creations!
    5. Blogging/Browsing Facebook/Pinterest/Internet in general - This is a given.  It's so relaxing and fun!

    Sunday, September 1, 2013

    4/30 Things - Letter to my 16 year old self

            I am switching this up a bit from 10 things you would tell your 16 year old self if you could to just writing a letter to my 16 year old self.  Reason being, I don't know if I can genuinely come up with 10 things.  Heck, there might be more or there might be less, I won't know until I start.  I think that a letter format would be much easier and more heartfelt anyhow, so feel free to improvise too if you are following along with your very own blog challenge.  This is about having fun, we're not being graded for following directions =)

            Dear 16 year old me,
         You are probably so thrilled right now, you're finally starting to blossom.  Most of your school years, you have felt like an outcast, or if I may be so blunt, an ugly duckling.  You finally learned how to correctly apply eyeliner, and your bra actually fits now too!  You still aren't happy with your body, because thanks to the music videos, magazines, and TV you've been exposed to, you believe that there's only one version of the "perfect girl/woman" and you aren't it.  You see, your generation is the start of a big change.  Yeah, Madonna liberated lots of women some 18ish years ago, but her ideas are nothing compared to what's coming.  I hope you're ready.  Actually, I know you're not.  But there's good news, you won't ever fit that mold of the "perfect girl/woman" that the media portrays - and that's a GOOD thing!!!!  You'll learn (in about 10 years, give or take) that the woman the media and society expect you to be, is far from God's idea for you.  She's NOTHING like the Proverbs 31 woman.  She doesn't have class, or values, she cares more for her appearance than her character.  She seeks to attract men from her physical attributes and assets rather than  her heart and reverence for the Lord.  She thinks that showcasing her flat stomach and long legs are the secret to getting the hottest guy in town.  She believes her breasts are for men to oogle at, rather then to feed future children.  And no I am not saying that breasts cannot be enjoyed visually (BY YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND, not random men), but that is not their main purpose.  And last of all, she is a fictitious and unattainable character.  Chasing after her image will only lead to heartache, heartbreak, and wasting countless hours of your life trying to achieve something that won't ever serve you in the "real world".  Sure, you might get some stares, or some whistles, but that's nothing compared to what you'll feel when you meet the love of your life and marry him on a beautiful February day in 2011.  Most of all though, don't change anything about yourself after reading this letter, because the storm you're going to pass though is necessary to mold you into the person you're going to be.  You are going to think your heart is breaking sometimes, but it's really not.  You are going to lose some friends, but they weren't really friends to begin with.  You're going to make some mistakes, but you will learn from them and be a better person from it.  You're going to have to deal with some really tough stuff in the next few years, but things are working together for the best.  You're going to be strong and happy, and you're going to make a difference in the world!  Hang in there kid =)

    Saturday, August 31, 2013

    3/30 Things - Parents

            Words cannot express how thankful I am to have been raised by my parents.  There are too many adults my age dealing with various issues because of their childhood upbringing.  Now, I'm not saying that my parents were perfect, because they were far from it, but they tried so hard to give me a wonderful childhood.  They had their fair share of "issues" when I was younger (mostly stuff I don't remember) but they stayed together, and worked things out.  Sadly, my father passed away in 2005, leaving my mom widowed and alone (I was living in an apartment at the time, with my ex and my son (who was around 3 at the time).

            Honestly, to this day I believe that everything happens for a reason.  While my parents brought me up to respect myself enough to wait for marriage, I strayed a bit in my teenage years, and wound up pregnant at 17.  Now, am I saying that God planned for me to be a 17 year old mother in an unhealthy relationship?  No, but I believe that things happened so that my dad could have a grandchild before he passed.  He got to spend 3 years with my son, and strangely enough (or miraculously?) at 10 years old, my son remembers his grandpop from his babyhood/toddler-hood and I believe that it has helped form him into the awesome kid he is today.

            Towards the end, I wasn't very close with my parents due to my depression.  I can honestly say that I don't even remember the last year or so of my father's life, and that's been difficult for me to write or talk about... I blocked a lot out from the first few years of my son's life, and that hurts too.  I think the depression was both from the fact that I was in an unhappy relationship and also that my father passed away so suddenly, and I never really had a chance to say goodbye.

            Over the years though, I have forgiven myself and realize that time can't be rewound.  I can only move forward and make the most of life now.  Family is precious and we should cherish and love them.  My mom now lives with my husband, children, and I.  Lots of people think that "living with in-laws" doesn't work out, but this setup is great for us.  My mom isn't lonely, she gets to spend lots of time with her grandchildren, and in turn we get the joy of her company as well.  She is a wonderful and selfless person who loves the Lord and has much wisdom about life to offer.

            I can't make a post about parents though without including my mother-in-law.  She has truly been like a second mother to me over the past 6 years.  Ever since I met her, she has been nothing but wonderful to my son and I.  She is a great Noña to him and is thrilled that she now has a beautiful granddaughter to enjoy also!  She raised my husband into the wonderful man that he is today, and continues to be a strong, inspirational role model in his life.

            In closing, I believe that we are given the parents (or parental-figures) that we have for a reason.  The impact they make on us, whether positive, negative, or whatever it may be, helps to shape us into who we are today and what kind of parents/spouses we will become.  This can teach us a valuable lesson too though, because as parents, our children are watching us and learning from us, we are shaping them for the future, just as our parents did with us!

    Friday, August 30, 2013

    2/30 Things - 3 Fears

            Fear is a funny thing.  I never understood the popular TV series, Fear Factor, although I occasionally watched out of morbid curiosity.  Some of the challenges, seemed more like "let's be as disgusting as possible to get TV ratings and cause mass vomiting" rather than "man up and face your fears to win $$$". Drinking puree'd caterpillars or laying in a bed full of worms wouldn't exactly scare me, but it would give me the heebie jeebies and I'd probably opt out before the first challenge had even begun.


            Anyway, I think we all have our own idea what constitutes as fear, and our own validations as to why.  That said, here are my 3 Legitimate Fears and how they became so:

    1. Bugs - I don't like most bugs.  I find them creepy.  The more segments they have, the freakier they are to me.  Ants are a huge one for me... Owning our own home which came with it's own mini-jungle (untamed wrap-around flower garden neglected by the previous owner for 1 decade+) kind of screams "Please join us for lunch ants!!!!!"  - So we have to be very proactive to keep them at bay during the warmer months... When I find an ant in my kitchen, the whole block knows about it, because I involuntarily let out a blood-curdling scream loud enough to wake the dead.  Spiders, crickets, and other creepy little bugs also gross me out, and mosquitoes just piss me off!  
    2. [Origin: I've just been creeped out by them for as long as I can remember..]
    3. Disease - I don't like to acknowledge this one, because I like to keep my thoughts positive, but let's be real, it's a fear.  I think my husband has accused me of being a hypochondriac quite a few times over the years, and hey I'll admit I used to be way worse... At the first sign of a headache or a rash on my toe I'd google my "symptoms and the worrying would start.  Lots of praying, reading God's word, and also just realizing I was being ridiculous has sort of helped ease my irrational fears, but the "what ifs" still loom in the back of my head.
      [Origin: IMO, the internet age, the information highway, knowledge might be power but it's scary!]
    4. The path my kids choose - This one is something I'm sure every parent struggles with... Am I doing the right things?  Saying the right things?  Will they stay with the Lord?  Will they fall in love, have their hearts broken, get married, have children of their own?  Etc..etc...etc... Obviously it's not a nagging/crippling fear, and I trust God to protect them, it's just one of those things I wonder about... maybe not exactly a fear, but close enough!  Fear for the unknown I guess would be a better description.
      [Origin: Becoming a mom.]
            Well, there you have it.  I'm sure there's more than that, but those were the first 3 I thought of, and felt led to write about!  What are YOU afraid of?

    1/30 Things - 20 Random Facts


    1. I'm a Virgo, and although I don't follow astrology, my hubby says my personality is pretty spot-on with the description of a "Virgo"
    2. Although I've had 3 dogs in my life, I'm not a "dog person" and I never really got attached to any of them.
    3. I used to sell Premier Designs jewelry, but I gave up on it after a little less than a year.
    4. I tried playing the flute, piano, and karate lessons as a child, and never stuck with any of them.
    5. I LOVE coupons, and I get the biggest rush ever from finding a stellar deal, and stocking up... The best part is putting a huge amount of an item in my cart, and also at the check-out lane, watching the amount owed drop!
    6. Although I'm now a brunette (and that's my natural hair color), I went blonde for several years as a teen.
    7. I took a break after fact #6, to go eat an entire half of watermelon myself... I gave my daughter a piece but she just smashed it.  My belly hurts.
    8. I sometimes pretend I have my own cooking show while making food in my kitchen,
    9. I love spicy food, mexican food, sushi, seafood, italian food, heck... I love FOOD, but those were my favorites.
    10. We sometimes go through 12-16 sticks of butter a week.  (<3 Costco/BJs )
    11. I never went to prom.
    12. I love high-pulp content orange juice.  Orange juice without pulp grosses me out.
    13. I loved being pregnant.  Loved it!
    14. I don't drink cow's milk at all, but I will cook with it, and eat cheese, yogurt, etc made with it. 
    15. My favorite teacher actually wasn't "my" teacher, she was my son's teacher.   I wish she would have been mine!  She is seriously a real life mother goose.
    16. I collect salt & pepper shakers.
    17. My favorite shows are The Walking Dead, Grey's Anatomy, Reba (no longer aired), & Full House (ditto)
    18. I love playing video games, but I don't feel like there's enough time in the day, or that they are important enough to distract me from everything else in my life, so I rarely play them anymore.
    19. My longest job was a waitress for Cracker Barrel, nearly 5 years.
    20. I haven't smoked a cigarette since I found out I was pregnant with my daughter over 2 years ago,  but I still miss them often.  I am too strong to go back though!

            There you have it, 20 random facts about me!

    Thursday, August 29, 2013

    Blog Challenge - The Rundown

            So I was looking for ideas to write about, to inspire me in the blogging world.  Trust me, I have plenty to say, but sometimes "blogger's block" gets me, and while I have 20 different ideas flowing through my head at 2AM while I lay in bed, or while I'm folding 3 loads of laundry (of which every single shirt and sock is inside-out, thanks darling husband <3 ), when I actually sit down to write, my thoughts evade me, and I sometimes draw a blank.  

            That lead me to my favorite information highway, aka Google, and I began searching for a blogging challenge.  I've seen them before, on some of the blogs that I follow non-loyally, so I knew about them - just never participated.  After a quick search, I came upon Brown Eyed Girl's Ramblings blog, and decided that this list looked quite fun!  If you like what you see, join in, link up, and accept the challenge!


    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    Stay at home mommy guilt

            When most of us think of mom's suffering from feelings of guilt, we imagine the modern day working mom.  The 9-5 mom who wakes up before the sun, rushing around to press her suit, make a (time-permitting) wholesome breakfast for her family, and dropping off her precious bundle of joy at daycare before sitting in bumper to bumper traffic heading to a cookie-cutter job position where she will count down the seconds until she can hear that little giggle and wipe those sticky fingers again.  What we don't usually imagine is the mom who is blessed to be home with her babies, all day, every day, rain or shine, in sickness or health.

            I have been on both sides of the fence in this scenario, with several differences.
    • My son was older (5) and in public school.
    • My 9-5 was usually a 6-1 as a waitress, and I wasn't usually working a 40 hour week.
            When my son was a baby, I was in a pretty unhealthy relationship, and if my memory serves me correct, quite depressed with my life.  I didn't work for several reasons, none being that I wanted to be a stay at home mom.  After things started turning around, when I got out of the bad relationship, moved on, became healthy and happy again, I found a job, and felt comfortable working because my son was either in school or with a family member.  

            Things changed when I became pregnant with our daughter 5 years later.  At first, I had every intention to return to work a mere 6 weeks (AMERICA, YOU SUCK) post-partum - but as my pregnancy progressed, and I fully embraced this beautiful life growing inside of me, I literally could not imagine leaving her with anyone for even a moment.  By the time I delivered, I was almost in tears at the mere thought of returning to a job that I no longer enjoyed as much as I did when I started, and also at the idea of placing my daughter in a daycare or even in the arms of a loving grandmother/noña.

            Now, that may sound drastic to you, or perhaps if you're a working mom you are offended that I find anyone but myself caring for my daughter to be sub-par... But, that is not my intention.  Everyone is different, and every mother, father, baby, etc react differently to different situations, and sometimes they just have no choice but to adapt.  So please, don't be thrown off by my personal sentiment as it only relates to this particular relationship between my daughter and myself. 

            Back to my point, we took a long hard look at our budget, and honestly things were not looking in our favor for me to stay at home.  We put our trust in God's hands and regardless of what the numbers looked like on paper, we were(are) trusting Him to keep us afloat, and 15 months later He has not let us down.  We have cut down on quite a few things, and I've been budgeting, couponing, and we have gone mostly paperless (kitchen and nursery, not the bathroom...) and have started making many other common household supplies to save money.  

            Being a working mom of an older child, before and during my pregnancy, I always sort of envied stay at home moms.  I mean, from the outside looking in, I thought the typical stay at home mom spent her days lounging on the couch, eating bonbons, surfing the boob-tube, maybe doing a load of laundry, and usually doing some form of cooking to prepare dinner for a hungry family. (See example below)

            But... Things aren't always as they appear.  Now I'll be the first to admit, I have my days where I don't feel like superwoman, and don't do much more than ^, but I feel MEGA guilty about them, and usually make up for them the following days with vigorous scrubbing, baking, cooking, sweeping, mopping, washing, creating, shopping, meal-planning, list-making, coupon-clipping, and plenty of Facebook updates/texts to verify that I am in fact, a busy, busy bee. 

            My original point, which I seem to be beating around the bush on, is that regardless of how hard we work around the house, regardless of how many loads of laundry we do, or how many pots and pans we scrub/detail/buff away every mark, regardless of the extravagant dinner that took 4 hours of slaving over the stove to prepare, and regardless of the fact that we don't get to "clock out" for breaks or at the end of the day, we all share this common, nagging, little voice in the back of our heads saying "IT'S NOT ENOUGH!!!!!!!"  I have pep-talked myself until I'm blue in the face,  I have marked off many lines on my chore-charts and to do lists, and I have been told by more than one family member that I try to do "too much", but sometimes it just doesn't feel like it's enough darn-it!  

            Some instances where I feel guilt include early mornings when my husband has to get up and rush off to work at 6AM while I'm lying in bed cuddling our little princess for another 5-6 hours (jealous?  she loves sleep just like her momma!), the naps I occasionally (sometimes I lay awake on my phone or laptop) get to take with her during the day, I can stay up late because I don't have to be up at a certain time, I don't have a boss to answer to (I can do what I want when I want - to an extent - obviously), and I'm sure there are tons more that I cannot think of right now.

            Stick around because I think I figured out the source of this guilt...  Happiness!  Yes, happiness.  I am truly doing what I love.  I know some little girls dream of being lawyers, or doctors, (or princesses, but come on, let's be realistic!) but my biggest dream (besides my other two huge dreams which I will share in later posts ) is to be a stay at home mommy.  To be able to raise my own children, watch them grow, homeschool them, & be able to keep my house beautiful and cook gourmet meals/treats often!  Now, I give HUGE props to moms that do it all, working all day and coming home to do full time mom duty also, it must be super hard, I can't imagine!  But (this is about me!) that's not what we're talking about here... I think that sometimes we (humans/people/persons/earth-dwellers) can feel a sense of guilt for being happy!  As ridiculous as that sounds, hear me out!  
    \
            Haven't you ever won anything (a fish at the fair, a $5 office raffle, free pizza for the week in school, the lottery<- if you answered yes to this one, please contact me via email and let's be best friends OK thanks.) and felt guilty for enjoying it?  Perhaps the other contestants were sad and giving you pathetic puppy-dog eyes trying to make you feel bad, or maybe your best friend is sitting across from you watching every delicious bite you take of that heavenly tomatoey, cheesy, garlicky, hunka hunka burnin' pizza while drooling and grumbling in misery?  Or maybe everyone is clapping and cheering you on, but you secretly feel bad (even if only for a second) while blowing $3,000 on a coffee grinder just because you can?  Well, while these examples are extreme, I hope my point was well received, uh, thank you very much. 

            So, in closing, I think that we all could learn to appreciate ourselves (and one another) more.  Especially for those who haven't had the opportunity to experience both lifestyles.  Yes, being a stay at home mom can be hard, and sometimes it might feel like there's no immediate reward, or that nobody notices all the little things we do, but it will pay off.  Our children will thank us one day, if not in words - then by actions.  Working moms have it even harder in my opinion, doing both jobs with half the time and energy.  Moms who work, and go to school?  Well, they are superhuman and have hacked time itself to make provisions for theirselves and their families.  Just kidding, but seriously I don't know how they do it!!!  No matter what our days are filled with, or what we accomplish, loving our children and husbands is the most important job in the world, and you ARE doing a wonderful job!  And hey, our husbands truly do have the "tough" job, going out and working hard, sometimes missing out on firsts or sweet moments, so let's not be too hard on them OK ladies? =)

    Beef & Cabbage Soup aka "Pigs in a swimming pool"

            This is a super easy, low maintenance, delicious soup that I whipped up last night.  I'd been craving Crapper (Cracker) Barrel's Beef & Cabbage soup for awhile now, and I decided to recreate it to the best of my ability!  I'm rather famous (atleast in my house) for my Cabbage Rolls aka "Pigs in a blanket", so I tried to keep some of the basic flavors/concepts for this soup! My husband nicknamed it "Pigs in a swimming pool", since the pigs are outside of their blankets, swimming around =) ... I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!  Oh, serve it with some delicious crusty bread, or even some soft homemade dinner rolls!  Yum!!!!

            Ingredients:

    • 2 tsp Olive Oil
    • 1lb Ground Beef (or half beef half pork)
    • 1 small Onion, chopped
    • 2 stalks of Celery, chopped
    • 3 cloves of Garlic, chopped
    • 28oz can Diced Tomatoes (and their juice)
    • 28oz can of water
    • 8-12oz Dry Beans (Navy, Northern, whatever you like, smaller ones are best)
    • 49.5oz can Chicken Broth
    • 3-4 Beef Bullion cubes
    • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tbsp Ketchup
    • 1/2 tsp Cumin
    • 1 tsp Parsley
    • 1/2 tsp Basil
    • 1/4 tsp Dill Weed
    • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
    • Salt & Pepper to taste
    • 3/4 head of Cabbage, chopped
            Directions:
    1. In the bottom of a large stock pot or dutch oven, add your olive oil, meat, onion and celery.  Cook over medium heat until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and stir often so it doesn't burn, until the garlic is aromatic (about a minute or two).
    2. Dump in the diced tomatoes, water, dry beans, chicken broth, bullion cubes, worcestershire sauce, & ketchup.  Stir until well combined. 
    3. Bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer.  Simmer for about 2-3hours until the beans are soft.  (Test them often, because cooking times/temps may vary depending on the type of beans used).
    4. When the beans are starting to soften, add your cabbage and the seasonings that are left and cook until the cabbage and beans are deliciously edible.
    5. Serve with a crusty french bread or some soft dinner rolls!  
    6. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    Learning to live, or living to learn... Part 2; Education

            When I had my first child, who is turning 10 years old next month (oh Mylanta, where does the time go?), I was in a very different place than I am now.  Understandably so... Nevertheless, I honestly, like most young parents, didn't know what I was doing!  At 17 years old, I knew very little about the world, relationships, child-rearing, work-ethic, God, handling money, relating to others, education... the list goes on!

            Flash forward to present day, more specifically, around when my second child was born (nearly 1 year ago now!), and there have been lots of changes, indeed!  I've done lots of soul searching in the past 3-4 years, and changed many aspects of our lives (sometimes, to my husband's dismay =)  ).  I've become much more health conscious, set up an envelope budget system to get our (many) bills caught up, and like I hinted in my previous post:  decided on a "parenting style".  Now, that's not to say I subscribe to a cult-like idea of how to parent my children, and do ritualistic things to ensure that I'm following the "grain"... Not at all.  I follow my own idea (and the bible of course) on how to raise my children, but I do look into studies and articles which reinforce my idea that children thrive best when closely connected, and gently corrected with love and attention.  

            Naturally, among these studies, I have found many "bunny trails" to peak my interest in other areas of our lives.  One of which is the choice to educate at home.  Now, there are many factors to consider in this equation, and it's not for everyone.  Things one should ask themselves when considering home education, include, but are not limited to:
    • (If your children are already attending public school) Is the current system working for us?
    • Do I enjoy spending time with my children - lots of time?
    • Which type of schooling do my children want/prefer (if both styles have been discussed or tested)?
    • Do you have strong religious or political views that don't coincide with the public school system?
    • Do one or both parents stay home or work from home to enable this lifestyle?
    • Can you afford it? (depending on what type of schooling, you may choose to use a curriculum, but also there is the cost of traveling, museums, co-ops, fun group activities, and of course the lost income of the parent staying home.) *this can vary greatly, depending on many factors!
    • Are there many resources available in your area to compliment a diverse learning environment?
    • Any other concerns your spouse and you might have.
            After much prayer, research, discussion, and 4+ years of dealing with public schooling for my son, we have decided that homeschooling is the right choice for our family.  Ideally, our daughter, when old enough, will never have to see the inside of a traditional classroom (unless she chooses to!).  I was asked, when withdrawing my son last month (mid-April), by his principal, why we chose this.  Out of curiosity, he said, he asks all parents what helped them come to this decision.  Honestly, the answer is that there wasn't one specific reason... There were many factors that lead to this decision.  The current system wasn't working for us.  My son was not thriving in this environment.  I, being a stay at home mom now, felt like my children would benefit most from being home with me.  Many of the secular and downright worldly ideas taught in school directly clashed with our faith.  I want my children to be happy, healthy, free-thinking, individuals with the freedom to choose what to learn and` when to learn it.

            Now, I'm sure someone reading this subscribes to the common misconception that home-schooled children are "sheltered" & "unsocialized" but not only is this wrong, it's actually quite opposite from the truth!  Think about this:  In public school, evolution is taught as the absolute truth.  I remember books filled with Darwin and his theories, photos of monkeys "evolving" into men, and talk of dinosaur fossils from millions of years ago.  Now, what I don't remember hearing is anything about this information being an 'opinion' or 'one of many' ideas about how the world came to be.  Thankfully, at home, I was exposed to the bible, and other information supporting what I believe to be the truth.  This is not to say that I will do what the public school system is doing, but on the other end of the spectrum.  I don't plan to teach my children Creationism only, while avoiding touchy subjects like evolution, big-bang, etc.  I plan to expose them to everything.  Explain what we believe, and why, and (so far my son, being the free-thinker that he already is, believes what the bible teaches) pray that they follow the right path.  

            As far as socializing, if you think spending 7 hours in a 18x18 room with the same predetermined 15-20 people your age day in and day out for 185 days a year while not being allowed to talk about or do what you want for 6.5 of those hours is socializing, then I don't even know what to say.  All of that, combined with after-school time-sucking homework activities, doesn't leave very much "free time" now does it?  My children will have plenty of time to see their friends (99% of which are different age groups and attend different schools), meet new friends (church, play-groups, internet, neighborhood exploration, & more), & "socialize" (morning, noon, evening, so much free time now that they aren't subject to arbitrary things like 8:00PM bedtimes, homework, & school bells.

            Again, homeschooling is not the right choice for everyone.  Your family dynamics, lifestyle, feelings, & environment will all affect the way things will work themselves out.  Making any big decision for your children should take both your spouses and your children's feelings/needs into consideration.  The most important thing in parenting is to have both mom and dad on the same page.  Without this, there will be discord and chaos, both of which will be more harmful than any "parenting style" or choice of education you could ever choose for your children.  

    Monday, May 27, 2013

    Learning to live, or living to learn... Part 1; Labels & Boxes

            About one year ago, everything I thought I knew started to change.  Many of my beliefs and ideas about life, living, children & more started to instead become questions... I started researching everything from natural living to different parenting styles, & everything in between.  After many hours of reading, watching videos, asking questions in forums, & observing those who lived these lifestyles in action, I felt fairly confident to "label" myself a Crunchy Christian mama practicing Attachment Parenting and it felt good to know who I was.  However, flash forward a year, to present day, and here I am thinking how absolutely stupid and downright restrictive these (or any) labels can be!!!

            One of the things that bothered me about most mainstream parenting/public school systems was putting our children into boxes, more specifically, labeling them.  "This child is hyper-active, so he just MUST have ADHD."  "This child is reserved and quiet, so she's definitely shy and sheltered."  "That boy likes to climb trees and chase dogs, he's ornery and wayward!"  Labeling our children almost invites or encourages them to fill these shoes.   The other day my husband said something to me that reinforced this idea.  I have this bad habit of assuming things, especially about those closest to me, because I feel like I know them.  I know them well enough to place labels on them.  I know them well enough to expect them to fill these expectations I have of them!
    Me(while making dinner with one hand, and holding the baby with another): "so I guess you're going to play that game again..."
    Husband(about to take baby, but instead, leaves the kitchen and goes to pick up the Xbox controller)
    Me "What are you doing??"
    Husband: "What I'm expected to do"
    [This was resolved, and he did end up holding her so I could make dinner, like he usually does - but this example shows that assumptions can lead to the outcome we are trying to avoid!]

            I believe in positive thoughts, and to an extent, the Law of Attraction.  Even the bible tells us to focus on things that are good, and not the bad.  Anyway, why shouldn't we use this process in all aspects of our life?  Why not expect the best behavior from our children?  Assume that our spouse is trying so hard to make us happy and not piss us off?  Appreciate that everyone isn't perfect, and maybe that woman who cut us off in traffic on a busy highway isn't a vengeful speed demon bent on ruining our whole week and trying to cause an accident, and maybe she's just a busy, tired, mom trying to make it to her only daughter's dance recital on time?  Instead of focusing on what could be, or what we perceive things to be, why don't we start focusing on the good, and expecting it, instead of almost "summoning" the bad?

            This is obviously something I'm still working on, and I'll most likely never "get there", but I'll keep trying, striving, and asking God to help me!  Let's realize that our children, our spouse, and every single person we encounter is a unique and diverse individual with different thought processes, ideas, needs, wants, & goals than us, and we don't have to put them in a neat little box to make ourselves comfortable.  We shouldn't assume the worst about someone just because it fits our preconceived ideas about who they are, what they've done in the past, and how we imagine that they feel about us.  I don't want to be labeled, so I'll be the change that I want to see!

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Flavorful & Delicious Chicken and Dumplings

    Flavorful & Delicious Chicken and (flat) Dumplings


            Now, when I say chicken and dumplings, you may envision your momma's chicken and dumplings, with fluffy moist clouds floating alongside chopped veggies in chicken broth... but these are not your momma's chicken and dumplin's!!!!!!!

            My love affair with chicken & dumplings goes way back.  Way, way back.  Back to my momma!    She doesn't do much cookin' anymore, but when she did, the most memorable meals from my childhood included chicken & dumplings, creamed chipped beef, & fried bologna sandwiches... Now you probably wouldn't find any of those things in your standard 5-Star Restaurant, but if I ruled the world, things would be better, I promise...  Anyhow, thinking about those foods from my childhood makes me nostalgic, and makes me miss my momma's cooking... So over the years I occasionally recreate the (simple) recipes myself.  However, I've never had much luck with the fluffy poofy (Bisquick) drop dumplings that my mother made with ease, so I've been playing around with roll dumplings lately.  After many attempts that left myself (and my family) less than satisfied, I finally created something to be proud of!  Now, I plan to work on some drop dumpling recipes in the future, but for now this hits the spot, does the job, and makes me smile.

            **Note: The broth should be made the day before, and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

            Ingredients (chicken/broth):

    • Whole chicken (washed, gizards and other fun/gooey stuff removed)
    • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 2 stalks of celery chopped OR 1tsp celery seed
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 whole carrots (peeled)
    • 3 bay leaves
    • salt & pepper to taste
    • 2 tbsp olive oil (or bacon fat)
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • dash of cayenne pepper
    • corn starch (to thicken at the end)
    • 1/2 tsp ground thyme
    • 1/2 tsp sage
    • 1 tsp parsley
            Ingredients (dumplings):
    • 3.5 C flour
    • salt & pepper to taste
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 3 tbsp cold bacon fat
    • 3 tbsp cold chicken fat
    • 1/4 C chicken broth (from above)
    • 1/2 - 1 C milk
            Directions:
    1. Heat up the olive oil (or bacon fat) and butter in a skillet on medium-high heat.
    2. Rub your chicken down with salt & pepper & place into hot skillet to sear, flipping after several minutes so that both sides get nice and brown.
    3. Transfer the chicken from the skillet to a large stock pot (carefully!) while keeping your skillet hot.
    4. Add chopped onion, celery, & garlic to skillet, and saute for several minutes until the onions are translucent.
    5. Add apple cider vinegar to the skillet and scrape up all the little stuck on browned bits =)
    6. Pour this concoction over your chicken in the stock pot and add also your bay leaves, carrots, thyme, sage, cayenne & parsley.
    7. Fill the stock pot the rest of the way with water - only just until the chicken is barely covered.
    8. Pop a lid on your stock pot, and place it on the burner on medium-high heat to bring to a boil.  Reduce heat just a tad so that you have a healthy simmer going.
    9. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until your chicken starts to melt off of the bones =)
    10. Pour everything through a fine strainer into a large bowl to store liquid in the refrigerator.
    11. Separate chicken off of the bone, and store chicken in a large ziploc bag in the fridge also, while discarding bones, veggie mush, and bay leaves. (You can freeze the bones in a large bag for making Bone Broth later!)
    12. Wait 24 hours (or overnight) for the broth to cool and the fat to solidify.
    13. Skim the fat from the top of your chicken broth carefully.  (I like to put the fat in a small bowl and transfer it to the freezer for 10-15 minutes to get it extra cold!)
    14. Pour the broth into your large stockpot (reserving 1/4 cup of it to the side) and heat it up over medium to medium-high heat to a healthy simmer)
    15. Meanwhile, put your flour, baking powder, salt & pepper in a large bowl, cut in your solidified bacon & chicken fat until it's all crumbly and mixed.  Then add your chicken broth & just enough milk to make it doughy and pulled together.
    16. Drench your countertop with flour and transfer your dough ball to the counter, kneading it 4-5 times to get it all together.
    17. Using a rolling pin or a glass or a Pringles can, or whatever you can find that is cylindrical and fairly clean - roll out your dough really thin (I didn't measure it, but you want it less than 1/8 inch thickness - the thinner the better!)
    18. Using a pizza cutter (my favorite method) cut up your dough into 1in. squares.  Let them sit for 15 minutes to dry up a bit.
    19. Once your broth is simmering well, scrape up your dumplings using a dough cutter or metal spatula (you can bring some flour with them too, although not necessary.  Add them to the broth and cover with lid.
    20. After 6 minutes they should have fluffed up a bit, but test them to make sure (I 'tested' atleast 15 this way, hello carbs!).  Remove them with a slotted spoon, and continue this method until all of your dumplings are cooked.
    21. *I put the cold chicken in the serving dishes, and lay the dumplings on top as they finish.  This helps to heat the chicken up, as does the broth once we add it in the next step!
    22. After your dumplings are finished, whisk some corn starch into a small amount of cold ice water, and add this a little at a time to your simmering broth, until it's the thickness that you desire.  I did about 3 tbsp. and that was enough for us =)
    23. At this point, I like to taste it, and add a bit more sage, pepper, or whatever I think it might need at the time!
    24. Pour your thickened broth over the chicken and dumplings in their serving dishes, and you're all ready to serve it!  I like to add some more salt, pepper, and hot sauce to mine!  YUM! Enjoy!

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Let thy food be thy medicine??? Huh?

            Confession: I used to silently giggle at coworkers who lovingly called their diets a lifestyle, and I now admire such dedication and strive to better myself and improve my family's overall health and environmental footprint.  There are still some things that I'm not completely sold on when it comes to revamping our diets and way of life, but I am willing to invest the time to research all facets and make a wise and informed decision.  See, I'm a very opinionated person, and if you know me personally, you are probably violently nodding in agreement.  BUT, when it comes to non life and death matters, for the most part I am quite reasonable (just don't ask my husband =)  )  I realize that there are 2 sides (sometimes more) to a fence, and everyone has to take their own path and make their own choices/decisions in life.  While some choose to completely avoid meat all together, I have chosen to cut back, and add more variety in our diets.  Others have even cut out animal by-products such as eggs, cheese, butter, etc... I have to say, that I LOVE cheese, and butter, and I enjoy the occasional egg here and there too... So that would not work for me!  I also believe that these foods were meant to be consumed, aswell as animals (to an extent) because God put them here for us to enjoy as companions but also as food (usually not at the same time.............).

            To me, any lifestyle/diet change doesn't have to be all or nothing.  So many people think it does, get overwhelmed and discouraged, and give up.  This is what scared me at first, but when I realized slow and steady changes, that we could deal with worked better, I felt so much more encouraged to do this thing and make changes for the better!  If you know that you aren't eating as healthy as you like, you feel that you're taking too much medicine/pharmaceuticals for too many ailments that seem to keep making you feel worse, and you just to improve your life/health in general, then what's stopping you?  I believe that if you want something bad enough, you'll go for it until you get it!

            Baby steps are your key here, and research, research, research!  Firstly, Netflix and YouTube are AMAZING resources that you can use to your (and your family's) benefit!  My husband for one, does not enjoy reading books/researching online/etc... so I try to get him to watch documentaries with me instead.  It's actually easier on me too now, with a small baby, to watch something rather than find the time to read about it.  A few really good documentaries to get you started are Forks over Knives, Fat, Sick, & nearly Dead, & Food Matters.  That's just the tip of the iceberg,  but it's a good start, and gives you an idea of all of the hidden dangers out there.  Part of my brain is rocking in a corner, in the fetal position screaming "WHY DID YOU WATCH THAT!! WHY DID YOU FILL ME WITH SCARE TACTICS, NOW I AM SCARED TO EVEN BREATHE OR LEAVE THE HOUSE OR DRINK WATER OR LOOK AT A BABY CARROT!!!!"  but alas, it's better to know -  because when you know better, you do better!

            Yes, now that I know the dangers of food dyes, GMOs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soy, etc... I think twice before every purchase... Yes, I still do buy some of these things, because they are cheaper and my family is used to them.  Yes, it scares me and I worry more than I used to when I was in the dark (ignorance is bliss, aye?)  BUT... I have made some positive changes, I have been more careful about what we buy,  I now make more things from 'scratch', I plan to start a garden this year, I try to help other people with my new-found knowledge (without overwhelming them to the point where they run away screaming and crying - that only happened once....I think..), and I feel better equipped to make healthy choices for my family.

            I still enjoy Cola, although I know the dangers of soda.  I justify it because I used to drink 2-4 cans of soda per day, and now I only have several glasses a week (if that, sometimes we just don't buy it, if it's not around to tempt us, we don't drink it!)  We have switched to farm eggs, rather than store-bought eggs, for quite a few reasons, one being the fair treatment and diet of the chickens - as well as supporting local business!  My son and I no longer drink cow's milk, we switched to Almond, which I actually think tastes BETTER!  My husband wasn't an easy sell for that, and is still drinking cow's milk *blegh*.  We also still buy the occasional loaf of bread (I don't have a bread machine yet, and rarely find enough time/will/gumption/motivation/energy to make homemade bread - although I LOVE it and find it so delicious UGH *note to self stop being lazy pleasethanks*.  Cereal, and Knorr Pasta are two of are pantry regulars also, cereal because my son loves it for breakfast... and pasta for quick/easy side dishes on rushy-rush nights.... I know, it takes about the same amount of time to make actual pasta, but it's one of the things I usually coupon for, and stock up on for the mean time.

            A lot of the health problems that we experience in this country are due to our poor American diets (among other things), and can be prevented/reversed if we would just take the time and energy to prepare real, wholesome, hearty meals from natural ingredients, and stay away from boxed and processed foods as much as possible.  The best advice I ever got for grocery shopping was "Don't take your husband or kids"  but no seriously, the best advice I got for visits to the grocery store was "Shop around the edges!"  and it makes sense!  Fresh produce and most 'staples' and basics are around the perimeter of the store, where most junky, preservative-laden and boxed foods are down the aisles.

            Basically, you need to be realistic and make small changes that work for you, or everyone will be miserable and your healthy food will slowly rot in the crisper drawer, turning into a pile of green mush with blue and grey fuzz, for you to find 2 months later when you finally get around to cleaning your fridge only because the condiments stick to the shelf when you try to pick them up.... not that that's ever happened to us or anything *coughbrusselsprouts*  Butttt... yea!  Use your brain, not your eyes/stomach, and you'll do fine, kid =)

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Super Bowlness Wings™

            First of all, I hope you're wearing socks while reading this, because they are about to get knocked off.  And, if you're not wearing socks, well, I don't know what will happen... so please go get some socks... I'll wait...

            Alright, are you wearing socks now?  Great, we can begin!

            Before I divulge my deepest darkest secret recipe (it's more coveted than Bush's Baked Beans - atleast I like to pretend that it is, and I didn't tell my dog how it's done, so I'm pretty well protected there...)  I have a question.  What color are your socks?  Just joking!!  It's actually a much more personal, and you don't have to answer outloud, you can keep it to yourself.  Think back in your life, to how many times you've ordered wings.  Coulda' been Buffalo, BBQ, Honey-BBQ,  Spicy, Sweet & Spicy, Buffalo Ranch, Sweet & Sour, Chipotle, Cajun, Honey Garlic, Teriyaki, Thai Chili, Mild, Medium, Hot, Firey Pits of Hell, OMGWTFBBQ, or any other flavor one could possibly conceive... Now think of how much you've probably spent in your lifetime on all of those wings!  The average wing (in dirty jerzee, atleast) will run you anywhere from as much as $1.19 each to as little as $.25 each.  Typically the more you order the lower the price goes.  $5.99 for 5 wings, and $15.99 for 30 at my local pizza joint.  $.25 is usually only seen during a special such as 'Happy Hour' at your local watering hole, and even then that's abnormally low.

            Considering the economy we are in, I don't know about you, but I can't justify selling a kidney to support my latest appetizer addiction.  I've been craving wings HARDCORE lately, and no I'm not pregnant =)  I am, however, breastfeeding, which I have read can lead to intense cravings as well!  Anyhow, enough bunny trails, onto the good stuff.  They say (who are they by the way? let me know if you find out...)  that necessity is the mother of invention, and boy oh boy is that true!  I NEEDED some wings for the Super Bowl.  (Note:  I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials and the food.  We planned to order some pizza & wings for the big game, but after looking at the "sales" flyers we were slightly disappointed, realizing that we wouldn't be able to remortgage our house in time to purchase everything our hearts (ie: stomachs) desired.  This is where the light bulb came on.  This is where greatness is born.  THIS is where miracles happen, my friends.  Yes, it's that serious.

            OK, so after doing a brief internet search (3hours17minutes worth roughly) I came to several conclusions.
    1. Google is stalking me and my purchases, and likes to rub my Amazon Wish List in my face on nearly every banner of every webpage I visit.
    2. My nursling likes to pop off every 15 seconds and check to see what I'm doing online.
    3. This is the only one that pertains to this topic so pay attention.  None of these recipes would do!
            Now, as many of you know, I like to re-purpose things, and this includes recipes!  I don't really consider it stealing because I find several recipes that I love, and combine the best of all of their delicious world's, and then I add my own spin, and Voila!  It's mine! =)  In this instance, my mother-in-law and I created this delicious recipe together!

            I'd like to introduce you to my Super Bowlness Wings™.  This is obviously a play on words, a clever one that I totally created myself, and I like to pretend that I trademarked it by putting a ™ after the name, however I didn't shell out the cash for that, so I'll just hope no one steals my thunder until I can afford the actual ™.  Also, I just want you to know that they can be made Bone-In or Bone-Out.  The only difference is the bone.  Honestly.  How beautiful is that?

            Now that you're salivating, your stomach is growling, and you're just about ready to lick your screen, I will give you what you came here for.

    Not quite as saucy as the final product should look.... I think this was near the end of the batch!

            Ingredients:
    • 40 chicken wings (frozen & defrosted or fresh) OR chicken breast cut into 'wing' size
    • 8-10 cups of vegetable oil in a deep fryer
    • 2 cups of flour
    • salt & pepper to taste
    • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
    • 1 cup of red-wine vinegar
    • 1 chipotle pepper (in adobo sauce) and 2 tablespoons of the sauce
    • 1.5 tablespoons of chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
    • 1 tablespoon of white sugar
    • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons of honey mustard
    • 2 tablespoons of honey
    • 1 stick of butter, chopped in eigths
    • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
    • 1/4 cup of filtered, cold water
            Directions:
    1. Heat up your oil in the deep fryer now, so it's nice n hot when you are ready!
    2. Mix flour, salt, pepper, & garlic powder in a large bowl.  Add wings, toss around until coated well.  After that, you can either leave them in the bowl, or transfer to a cookie sheet/plate until ready to fry - and place them in the fridge to chill a bit while you do the next step!
    3. Add chipotle pepper & adobo sauce to a blender until smooth puree.
    4. Mix red-wine vinegar, adobo puree, chili powder, & sugars to a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer 30 seconds.
    5. Add honey mustard, honey, and butter.  Stir until melted.
    6. Mix together cold water & cornstarch.  Mix into sauce w/ a whisk just until mixture thickens a bit.
    7. Set sauce aside.
    8. Bring out your wings.  Fry about 5-6 at a time, for anywhere from 3-5 minutes until golden brown and crispy.  Remove to brown paper bag, paper towels, or a rack to drain.
    9. At this point you can douse the wings in the sauce a little at a time, as you finish frying them, or you can wait until they're all fried.  They stay hot for quite awhile =)
    10. Enjoy!