Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chicken soup is good for you...

Especially if you're feeling a bit under the weather. Don't know what it is exactly that makes this soup taste so good when you're feeling crummy, but it just does. The other day, my little sous chef and I whipped up a batch of chicken noodle soup for our neighbor because she has been feeling sick with a cold. He enjoyed being able to finally cut a piece of celery on his own, and to see the smile on his face when he delivered his culinary masterpiece to her was priceless. ♥

We went off to the store, gathered up our supplies and made a batch of homemade goodness that was "just what the doctor ordered" per her comment to us later that night. :)

Here's what you need to whip up your own batch of goodness in less than 1 hour:

8 cups of chicken stock (your own, store-bought, whatever you've got)
3 chicken breasts, cooked and cooled (I grilled mine outside, and love the char developed on them from the grill outside. I did not season with salt or pepper during cooking.)
2 large or 3 medium sized carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 medium sized onion, sliced and then chopped into bite size pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced and zested
Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Italian Parsley coarsely chopped
2 cups whole wheat pasta, cooked and drained (whatever kind you like- I used rotini.- These are also optional, I don't put noodles in my own soup, but the kids ate theirs with noodles, and we gave them as an option to our neighbor.)

Step 1: Drizzle olive oil in bottom of stock pot over medium heat.

Step 2: Add carrots, onion and celery to pot. Stir and cook until onion becomes translucent.

Step 3: Add garlic, cook until fragrant. Approximately 1 minute.

Step 4: Add chicken stock, chicken breasts and lemon juice. Bring entire pot to a boil. Approximately 10 minutes.

Step 5: Remove chicken breasts from pot and shred with a fork. Add to pot of broth and veggies.

Step 6: Taste and season with pepper to your own liking.

Step 7: Right before serving, add lemon zest and fresh parsley.

Step 8: If using the noodles, add them to a bowl before ladling soup over the top of them.

That's it.

Now, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous, this soup can be modified into a chicken tortilla type of soup. I call it my Fiesta Chicken Soup. Very yummy too, and has a bit of a kick to it. :)

During the cooking process add the following items in Step 4.

14.5 oz can of Organic Fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Lime juice instead of Lemon Juice (same amount)
Jalapeno diced, ribs and seeds removed *optional*

Step 8:
Garnish with the following:
Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
Tortilla chips

That's it!

Note: I didn't add any salt to either recipe. I don't think that it needs it, but if you think it does as you're creating your meal, then by all means add some to it. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recycled inspiration

Sorry for the lack of posts the past couple of days. I've been really busy with life over here. This past weekend our dishwasher decided to bless us with an indoor pool- I've always wanted one of those, just not in that way... A event that I'm on the committee for is happening this weekend, but some of the requirements were changed on Monday (less than a week before the event) and it caused a lot of the planning to be rethought- when you're putting together a shin-dig for 500+ people, it causes a bit of finagling and creativity. Luckily, that has been taken care of, and things are set up now... Reading/editing a book for a friend that I promised to do- if you (soon to be awesome and world renowned author- you know who you are) read this post, know that I like to 'cold read' something before I begin to edit/critique and then re-read it... in the editing process now :) ...that's just the stuff that is out of the ordinary here... ha ha

Ahhhhh... deep breath... in... out... in... out...

Ok. Cool. I have my cup of now cold coffee next to me- it was hot when I poured it a while back... and I'm ready to go now. ;)

Today I feel inspired. Not that I don't have inspiration around me, but this inspiration is permeating my thoughts. Such a simple activity (like recycling, turning off a light when not in use, etc.) can make such a huge difference when we work as a group. I mean, really, think about it for a second... let's take a journey back in time ... okay, maybe not, but think about how things were like when you were a kid. I can't say that I remember ever consciously recycling items until I was in high school, partially due to living in the 'boonies' as I affectionately refer to my parent's house 5 miles from 'town', partially because I didn't think it mattered what I did or didn't do. Just being honest here.

Now... I have my own kids, and recycling is one of those things, I don't even think about any more. I'm sure we can do more, but for now we use the compact fluorescent bulbs in our lights, refurbish materials into new crafty goodness, have 2 'trash' bins- one for recycling, one for 'trash'... which will be changing yet again, when I get my composting pile going for the garden. That is still just a thought in my head, need to research that one some more before I embark on it... So, my recycling inspiration is from a project with Girl Scouts and their Forever Green Project. This is the 100 year anniversary of Girl Scouts, and as a result, 'Green' projects are popping up all over the place 'to do this, do that,' etc. If you are interested in this at all, you can go here and read more about it.

Unfortunately, I am feeling that these projects are indeed incredible to undertake and set in place for your community, however, to keep the impact going and escalating, we need to maintain them. Such a simple concept really, but how many will actually do this?

Just the word "maintain" brings up some negative connotations. An inward groan of ugh, maintenance, continued work, delayed results, etc. especially from living in a "immediate gratification" society. Where our cell phones can jump on the internet to research the best whatever with the swipe of a finger, if it doesn't happen right now, then it is too slow, etc- the fact that cell phones have become our "home phone" so we are available (with appropriate cell service) at a moment's notice.

To me, we need to look at maintenance in a different way, it needs to be seen as a positive thing. Like, if we keep up on it or grab a friend to join us, it will never become something so overwhelming, that undertaking it as a project will just squelch any inspiration left, and any that may sprout up later because of the memories of overwhelming ourselves with a project. I remember growing up, my brother had a teacher that used the phrase "a happy heart" and that has really stuck with me and I believe it applies here. We need to have a "happy heart" when doing something because that positive attitude will not only keep you inspired, but motivate others too.

Summing it all up here:
To me, if you are inspired to do something- that is fantastic! Inspiration is always a good thing.

Acting on that inspiration is an even better thing.

Maintaining that inspiration "with a happy heart" is the best thing- and is what will inspire others to do something too.

So the cycle continues... inspiration - action - maintain -

That's the kind of recycling, I'm not only happy to do, but hope to inspire others to do as well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine Lottery Tickets

I found an idea a while back on how to make your own lottery type scratch it tickets here. I made a few for the kids and hubs for Christmas with different things to "win" just like a real lottery ticket- just without the gambling! ;)

I decided to revamp them for Valentine's Day, but use them as mail for my kids' mailboxes that I made for them. This has become such a fun night time before going to bed activity with the kids. They love how they get "mail" each day. :) I'm giving my "lottery" cards to the kids and hubs tonight complete with a "lucky" penny- ones dated with their birth year for the kids and our wedding year for the hubs. :) This project is super easy, and can be whipped up during naptime. :)

Here's what you need:

Packaging tape- I think that the original tutorial used contact paper. I improvised.
Acrylic paints- I used red and gold
Dish soap- I used Dawn
Pen for writing
Imagination :)

Step 1: Think of what you want to have on your "lottery" tickets and write them out. If you have horrible writing, I guess you could print them out.

Step 2: Cover your "prize" with the tape. Set aside.

Step 3: Mix your paint and soap. You need to use a 2 parts paint to 1 part soap. Stir until it is blended.

Step 4: Take your card with the "prize" from Step 2, and cover your "prize" with paint mixture. You might need 2 coats, depends on how you do it, and if you can see your "prize" still after 1 coat.

Step 5: Let dry completely. It doesn't take too long. Mine were dry in 15 minutes.

That's it! :)

Hand out some pretty cool Valentine treats to your kids, family, etc. These could even be made as a class gift if you really wanted to. It's up to you- use your imagination! :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Refried Beans

I've been trying to feed my family less processed foods in an effort to instill a healthy lifestyle with my kids. Yesterday, my neighbor introduced me to a co-op of local farmers, so now, I have a way to obtain fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, eggs, and meat. So excited! It's funny how that little invitation from her has me giddy with the possibilities of creating some really delicious and healthier meals for my family. :)

So, one of the first things that I decided to conquer that I usually buy processed, (because honestly, I was completely afraid of the making process) is re-fried beans. We have tacos weekly in this house, and I just recently tackled one of my other faves that I used to leave to the pros, Taco Pizza, so I figured this one had 2 options: 1. really tasty or 2. really ugh... not for me. Luckily for me it turned out super tasty!! :) Yay!! My kids also said they liked them more than the "other" kind. Double yay!!

These beans were so incredibly easy to make, total cost for a huge crock pot's worth of 're-fried' beans less than $3. Seriously. Not only were they inexpensive, they are delicious!

Here's the easy peasy recipe:

1 yellow onion (mine was about the size of a softball), peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of dried pinto beans
9 cups of water
1/8 tsp ground cumin (I used 1/4 tsp. and it was not overpowering at all)
5 tsp. salt
1 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (I coarsely ground mine)

Step 1. Rinse beans thoroughly in water, and place in crock pot.

Step 2. Put water into crock pot, and turn crock pot on high.

Step 3. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper to crock pot.

Step 4. Cover crock pot and let it cook for 8 hours. Periodically check on it, stir to make sure it doesn't burn to bottom. (Long time to cook, but really worth it. I guess you could do it over night, but I started mine at 10am and they were ready for dinner at 6pm.)

Step 5. I used a slotted spoon to pull my beans out of the crock pot, then placed them into my food processor. If you don't have a food processor, you could mash them however you would like to your desired consistency using a whisk, potato masher, blender, etc . Reserve some of the water to thin out beans if you want them thinner. Entirely up to you.

Enjoy. :)

No Bake Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate "cookies"

So, today is Superbowl Sunday... Yay. No really, this year I'm *really* not into watching the game. I could care less who wins the Giants or the Patriots. I am really only into watching it for the commercials, and as of half time, they have been pretty sucky, with the exception of Betty White for the Voice. Betty White is awesome. 90-something years young and can still hang with the crowd and throw in a jab or two. I want to be like her if I live to be 90 something. :)

Earlier today, I was craving something yummy- a salty and sweet combo. I usually don't do anything for Superbowl Sunday, and since this household is waiting for next season to start (Go Steelers!) I wanted a no-fuss, little mess to clean up treat. A no bake cookie would be fantastic. Not really in the mood for the Chocolate Oatmeal ones, so, the peanut butter crispy ones came to mind. Check in the pantry to see if I had the supplies- yep. Sweet! I love it when that happens. :)

Now, I don't honestly remember where I stumbled across this recipe. I've known it for years, and it would satisfy my salty and sweet craving. I wouldn't call these "cookies" per se, but more of a naked truffle. Here it is.

See what I mean about it being more like a naked truffle?

Peanut Butter Naked Truffle
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
1 1/4 cup peanut butter (I used creamy, but chunky would be yummy too)
2 cups Rice Krispies
Approx. 1 cup melted Chocolate of your choice (I used dark chocolate-I've used milk chocolate before, but didn't have any in my pantry.)

Cream together: butter, powdered sugar and peanut butter.

Add Rice Krispies. Incorporate well- without crushing them. The dough will be very sticky.

Form into balls. (Mine are about the size of a gumball you would get from a machine for 25 cents.)

Put in freezer to firm up for about 15 minutes.

Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals, be careful to not burn the chocolate. :)

Dip truffles into chocolate so it covers about 1/2 of the truffle.

Set aside and cool, allowing the chocolate to harden.

Store in fridge so they don't get too mushy before serving.

That's it. Enjoy. :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ruler Artwork & Family Keepsake

I love today's project. I found the idea/inspiration on Pinterest (shock, I know) and knew that I could make it for less than the hefty price tag on it.

My kids are growing like weeds. I swear the boy has grown 4 or more inches since the summer, the girl has grown a bit too and I'm trying to capture as much of their growing as possible. We move around a lot, so the whole tradition of scratching into a doorway's trim their height and dates isn't a feasible option to keep track of their growth. Also, they are very competitive with "who's taller?" even though they are 3 years apart in age, so this project is perfect. :)

Here is the inspiration here and she found them here. So, an idea popped into my head, I can make this myself for a whole lot less- and get a piece of art for the wall with the bonus of capturing the kids' growth. :) Yay!

Here it is. My version of the previous two links. I love the way it turned out.

Ignore the dog's food bin in the picture- we have a 200# mastiff, and this is the only thing that he can't get into and eat his food! ;)

The cost for this project was about $10- but you could do it for less if you have some of the supplies on hand; which I did, so it only cost me $6.

What you will need:
1) 1" x 8" x 6' board- I bought mine at Home Depot for $6
stain- left over from Oregon Art project
brushes for stain and paint
stencils (optional)
picture hanger- bought these at Hobby Lobby- left over from Oregon Art project

Step 1: Sand your board- if desired. Mine had some rough edges and a stamp on it from the manufacturer on the side I wanted to use for my ruler.

Step 2: Stain board to desired depth of color. I ended up doing 2 coats for mine. Let cure. Mine took a couple of days because the weather was cold/rainy/damp for a few days after I began the process.

Step 3: Since my board is 6' long (Actually measured it at this point and it was 73" instead of 72"- so measure your board in case yours is off too. You could cut off an inch or so to make it 6' or you could leave it. Either way, it works.) I decided to make my tick marks at 2" intervals.

Step 4: I began my measurement with the bottom of the board is 6". The reasoning behind this, is because I will hang the ruler 6" from the ground, so starting from 0" would be unnecessary. So, the first tick mark is 8", second 10", third 1', etc.

Step 5: Decide on length of tick marks for varying heights. I ended up making my full foot measurements 3 3/4" long, 1/2 foot was 2 3/4" long and the remaining were 1 3/4" long. If this isn't clear, check the picture. :)

Step 6: Stencil in your numbers for the full foot measurements. Or you can skip this step if you are going to just paint them free-hand.

Step 7: Paint your tick marks and numbers. Let dry.

Step 8: Seal with acrylic sealer. Do this in a well ventilated area. I ended up with a headache from this and I did it in my garage. If you can do this outside- I would recommend that. :)

Step 9: Position your wall hanger on the back of your ruler, 1" from the top of your board.

Step 10: Hang on your wall- if you are using a 6" one that is actually 73" like mine is, I put the nail in at 6'6" so it lines up correctly.

That's it! :)

Enjoy your new art piece that will capture your kids' growth throughout the years- maybe even your grandkids too. :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Family, food, GMO?! Huh?!?

I don't what it is about food. Whenever I'm especially missing my family (like today), I end up finding myself browsing food blogs, recipe databases, combing through my cookbooks, etc trying to find that "perfect" dish to create- only to be frustrated that I don't have *all* of the ingredients to whip it up. Grrrr... so frustrating!

Anyhoo... as I was browsing through some recipes today, I came across some information. I tend to have an ADHD type browsing style- I find a recipe, then see something shiny and open up a new tab/window and explore, repeat, repeat, repeat, then end up with entirely too many windows on my browser and wonder why it is taking so l-o-n-g to load info. ;) My dad used to tell us kids growing up that we are "jitterbugging" and need to focus, not sure what a dance from the 30's, a WHAM song lyric or that crazy little cell phone with only a few buttons has to do with things, but hey, whatever. See what I mean, I'm all over the place today! ;)

So... back to my point... in my search for the perfect recipe, I stumbled across some information that I had kinda tucked away in the back of my mind. Back when I was in college (the first time around- late 90s) I took a class on Bioethics. The class was incredible- and I remember being outraged back then at how our food could become modified in a way that was "roundup ready" and that Monsanto was a huge culprit. One of the books I read was extremely enlightening,- so much so, that I started reading labels like a crazy person back then. Now... I would absolutely love to tell you I kept up on that outrage, kept up on reading the labels like a crazy woman and all of that. *shaking head* Unfortunately, I didn't/haven't, I still read labels- don't get me wrong, just didn't realize what I needed to be looking for exactly. All I know, is that I'm going to look closer at the ingredients, and not just for the nutritional information, but at the actual ingredients.

GMO (genetically modified organism) is a lot more common than it was 10 years ago. I found a blog that had a really simple way to understand what is going on in addition to links for more information if you wanted to know more. There are several links to find brochures that you can print out and bring with you to the store to help you out. There are even codes on your fresh fruit and veggies that will indicate to you whether or not it is a GMO, natural, natural & organic to help you with understanding your fresh veggies and fruit. If you're not convinced something is up, then do a simple Google search on GMO, see what pops up- crazy stuff. I'm talking stuff from a sci-fi movie, seems unreal, but unfortunately, it isn't.

Too much information is not really a bad thing when it comes to knowing what is going in to your body or your family and your kids' bodies. You only get one, you have to take care of it. Garbage in - garbage out.

Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feeling Lucky?

I love giveaways! I have only won twice in my entire life- but I have entered a lot of contests along the way! ;) It is so much fun to enter- hoping to win and thinking of the possibilities to be made if you do win...

This one is pretty easy to do, and you can get multiple entries too. If you like to sew cute stuff for your little one you can check out Whimsy Couture for the patterns you like so you can tell Positively Splendid which ones you would choose to create. Over at Positively Splendid's place, you can enter to win some patterns from Whimsy Couture! :) Cool huh?

Good luck!! :)