hugsandcookies

Finding the Me in Mommy

I feel like chicken tonight, chicken tomorrow night, and the next night too…

Hey, all!  I haven’t had two minutes to spare this week for my poor blog.  Sad, because a few things have happened that could provide beaucoup material.

It has been crazy.  We are selling our house and looking for a larger one.  Having my house on the market and searching listings every day is the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done.  And that includes subbing in a kindergarten class, finger painting with a toddler, and having a husband.

One good thing about being super-busy is that I tend to create new, easy meals.   This particular one started out as one evening’s dinner, but I made too much and got two more really good meals out of it.  So, I’m giving you all three recipes because I plan to make too much again, intentionally this time, during this chaotic thing called house-hunting.

Day 1 – Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 jar (24 oz) salsa (I used medium heat)
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • juice of 1 lime, or equivalent bottled lime juice
  • 1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

Place chicken breasts in crockpot.  Mix together all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cook on low at least 6 hours.

I served this over rice for the first night.

We then had 3 chicken breasts and lots of sauce left, so I decided to shred the remaining chicken and make these enchiladas for the second night’s meal.

Day 2 – Cilantro Lime Chicken Enchiladas

  • leftover shredded chicken ( I used about half of the remaining chicken)
  • approximately 10 flour tortillas
  • 1 can enchilada sauce
  • 1 can green chiles (do not drain!)
  • 1 cup + 1 cup pepper jack cheese, divided
  • 1 cup Fritos, crushed

Place a large spoonful of chicken in the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle some cheese on top of chicken before rolling.  Roll up each enchilada and place seam side down in a greased casserole dish.  Mix green chiles into enchilada sauce and pour over the stuffed tortillas.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for  25minutes.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and crushed Fritos on top, bake uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.

I know Fritos are just weird on enchiladas, but these were crying out for something salty and crunchy. Fritos perfectly fit the bill.

So, I still had half of the leftover shredded chicken.  So far, I had been really impressed with how different the flavors were for the first two nights.  I didn’t want anything that tasted the same as either one of them.  So, I thought I’d try to come up with a White Chicken Chili recipe.  And here it is…

Day 3 – White Chicken Chili

  • leftover shredded Cilantro Lime Chicken
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1 can green chiles (do not drain!)
  • 2 TB butter or margarine
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 TB tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice, prepared according to directions

Melt butter in large stockpot.  Add onion and garlic, cook until softened (about 5 minutes).  Add flour, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly.  Add chicken stock and milk.  Bring almost to boiling over medium heat.  Reduce heat and add chicken, green chiles, and tabasco.  Simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add corn and beans.  Cover and simmer 10 more minutes.  Add cooked rice, and guess what, simmer a few more minutes.

I made the rice separately because I hadn’t planned for it and didn’t want to lose all my liquid into the rice.  You could cook the rice in the chili as it simmers, just make sure to add more liquid from the beginning.  My husband said this was even better re-heated the next day, too.

I hope you enjoy these recipes!  I’m going to go do some laundry, since that has also suffered this week.  Tonight’s the night, or we might all be buried in onesies by tomorrow morning!

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Jennifer Crusie’s “Bet Me” is pretty much a sure thing

Another book review!  First of all, I need to let you all know that this book is not new to me.  I’ve read it over, and over, and over.  I really wanted to write about a book that I love, and one that I hope any of you who are actually reading this, will love too.  Especially after the disappointment of the last book I reviewed.

So, “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie.  All of Crusie’s books are on my bookshelf.  That’s right, every single one.  And, don’t tell my husband, but I might have a few of them on electronic copy too.  Anytime I need a lift, one of her books does the trick. Like printed Prozac.  (Is Prozac even prescribed anymore?)

“Bet Me” has some of the best characters you’ll find in any fiction novel.  I enjoy all of Crusie’s characters, but there is something about Min Dobbs that just makes me feel like I want to know her, or I do know her, or heck, maybe I am her.   She is so real, slightly neurotic and worried about her weight.  She meets a gorgeous man who falls for her instead of the skinny chick.  And Crusie makes you believe it could happen!  He thinks she’s hot, he feeds her doughnuts, he stands up to her mother.  That works for me.  If I’m going to fantasize, its probably going to be about a man cleaning house and bearing cheesecake rather than Fabio.  Maybe one who lets me sleep in and changes all the diapers.  Or one who…never mind, I’m getting a little sidetracked here.

Another character in this book whom I adore is Harry.  I have a soft spot for little boys, can’t imagine why, but watch for him and I think he’ll steal your heart too.

If you’ve never read anything by Jennifer Crusie, if you don’t read romance, if you think you simply can’t find time to read, consider this my Valentine’s Day gift to you.  Read this book!  It will improve your day.  And seriously, what beats that?

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I’m running an inadvertant nudist colony.

Well, that sounds worse than it really is.

I swear, I pick out adorable clothes for my boys.  And I’m careful to choose things I know they like (well, the little one just gets what I like.)  So, my oldest gets Transformers, Batman and all that other boy stuff.  Occasionally, I can still talk him into Mickey Mouse.   He is so excited to wear them and shows everyone the Cricket or Grasshopper (yes, I know it’s really Bumblebee) or whatever on his shirt.

But the minute we get home, one of the first things out of his mouth is “Mommy, can I be nakey-legged?”  And pretty soon that’s followed up by “How ’bout nakey-shirted?”  So the cute clothes end up in the laundry, and my undie-clad exhibitionist runs around the house absolutely thrilled with his lack of clothing.

And then there’s the baby.  I’m blessed with a happy, smiley baby.  But I get the biggest, happiest smiles and full-on giggles when this kid is wearing a diaper or less.

I don’t get it.  I’m sure I did this as a kid, but now I would be mortified if someone told me I couldn’t wear my clothes.  Even if I had a body like Giselle, I wouldn’t be comfortable running around in my skivvies.  Okay, well, maybe if I had a body like Giselle.  But instead I have two kids.

Does every kid do this?  Or should I put a “Beware of Nakeyness” sign on my door?

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I need a Pause button!

The silliest things have made me feel sad today.  My little boy (who isn’t so little anymore, really) started soccer yesterday.  He looked so big in his little shorts with the shin guards.  I know that he’s growing quickly, but I’m not altogether thrilled with those circumstances that force me to face the fact.  On top of that, my baby can now touch his toes to the bottom of the bassinet while his head is touching the top, so we had to put together the crib.  Yet another reminder of how fast time goes by.

Obviously, change happens.  Kids grow.  I know that and I want my kids to grow up, healthy and happy.  But, man, does it have to happen in the blink of an eye?  I’m feeling all sorts of guilt (I think I’ve mentioned that Catholic school girl guilt before) about any time I’ve ever complained about my kids driving me crazy, or needing a break, or needing sleep more than snuggles.  Again, I know that kids will be kids (read: monsters), that moms need some time to themselves, and that I’m not superhuman enough to survive without sleep.  But, still.

So, I’m going to go color with one while rocking the other.  And if I cry a tear or two, I’m going to try to claim that they are tears of poignancy instead of sadness.

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What’s cookin’, baby?

I have taken on the grand adventure of making my own baby food.  During the time that my toddler was an infant, I was working outside of the home and it never occurred to me that I COULD make his food.  This time, I’m home and ready to a) save some money, and b) know exactly what is going in his mouth.  (Other than his hands, his toys, his blanket, his shirt, well, you know.)

I know there are many differing opinions about baby food purees.  I believe that every family makes the choice that suits their needs, and I’m only talking about my own experience.  So, no arguing, name-calling or hair-pulling on this subject.  I have a toddler, remember?

We started with carrots.  I peeled, cut and steamed a couple of carrots.  They were beautiful, perfectly ripe carrots because they came from the Bountiful Baskets co-op.  Hmmmm, maybe they should sponsor my blog.  I seem to advertise for them often enough!

Anyway, back to carrots.  I tried my food processor first.  It was a pain in the neck, not to mention an area distinctly south of there.  Then I took the half-mushed, grainy looking orange concoction and put it in the blender.  All it did was stick.  At this point, I was thinking that this making my own baby food business was getting complicated.  I may have cursed my food processor a time or two (under my breath of course), before I remembered the stick blender.  Success!  Carrot puree.

My son is a hilarious eater. It is physically impossible for me to spoon the food in his mouth as quickly as he would like.  Between every bite as I refill the spoon at warp speed, he lets out this loud, very irritated squawk.  And if I’m not holding his hands (which I’ve gotten very good at), he immediately shoves a fist in his mouth.  Apparently, he thinks that might satisfy his hunger.  Personally, I’d rather have a Snickers.

We’ve now tried apples, bananas, the infamous carrots, sweet potatoes, avocado, green beans, and peas.  I’m awfully proud of myself for making each and every one of the foods he’s eaten, although I might have quit the first day if I didn’t own that stick blender.

I can’t wait to try the meats, fish, and combinations.  I never thought I would be excited about making, looking at, or smelling, beef puree, but there it is.

No, I’m not crazy.  I’m a Mom.

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Life lessons from Blue’s Clues. Really.

On our last trip to the library, my 3 year old picked out his usual books.  Thomas, Charlie Brown, Max & Ruby, etc.  For some bizarre reason, he really wanted this Blue’s Clues book, called “I’m Sorry!” by Justin Chanda.  He considers himself too old for Blue’s Clues, so I was both surprised and irritated.  I can’t stand the Blue’s Clues show.  The silly mail song gets stuck in my head and the guy is weird bordering on creepy.  I watched one episode where he did an Elvis accent, and I’ve never been able to watch it again.

So I have to admit I totally rolled my eyes at this book.  I put off reading it to him, saying “Wouldn’t you rather read Calling All Engines?  Or Charlie Brown Valentine?”  Finally, it was the only library book left unread, and I was stuck.

It ended up that the joke was on me.  I love this book!  I guess without the annoying song or the guy who gives me the heebie-jeebies, it’s a whole different ball game.

In the story, Green Puppy borrows Magenta’s favorite crayon and accidentally breaks it.  (Side note:  I’m a little bewildered by green, blue and magenta colored puppies, but it didn’t faze my toddler at all.)  Magenta is sad, of course, when she finds the broken crayon.  Green feels bad, but doesn’t know how to tell Magenta that it was her fault.  Through the story, all the characters help Green find nice things to do to show Magenta that she’s sorry, but in the end, Green learns that being sincerely sorry is what matters the most.

Seriously, what a great lesson!  This is exactly the concept of sorry that I most want my children to understand.  A sincere sorry and honesty about what happened are most important.

We read this book the night before last.  Last night, I had something occur that reminded me that this basic concept of sorry applies to all people, all ages, in all interactions.  Sorry doesn’t mean anything unless you feel it in your heart.

I have high hopes that my children will learn this at 3, and not have to learn it by causing pain to someone else when they’re my age.  And if Blue’s Clues helps that happen, I guess I’m okay with Blue and her many-colored buddies.  Although, I’m still a little freaked out by Steve.

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How to get a 3 year old to listen to you…

Wow, that’s a topic, right?

It’s actually a pretty easy answer, in my experience.  Pick up the phone, call someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile, and ta da!  Your child will listen to every word you say, put in their two cents, and interrupt.  Over and over and over.

Actually, I think this method works on my husband too.

There is no joy greater than being a parent.  But there are some days when I feel like tearing my hair out if I hear “MOoooooooommmMMMMyyyyy!” one more time.

Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), it has been one of those days.  Today is a day when we are not doing art projects, we’re not working on a workbook, and I’m not limiting television or Leapster time.

Because some days, happiness means breaking my own rules.

 

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My little loves…

I know Valentine’s Day is still a few weeks away, but it’s on my mind.  My 3 year old picked out “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown” at the library today.  We talked for a couple of minutes about what Valentine’s Day is, and then he announced from the carseat, “You’re my best Valentine, Mommy!”

You know what, he’s mine too, he and his brother.  No matter how much I love my husband (and I do, of course), there is nothing that compares to how I feel about my sons.

Tonight I have listened to baby giggles, toddler train sounds, and a hilarious “Do you have a brain, Daddy?” question.  I can’t imagine anything better.

So I’ll gladly give up a romantic candlelight dinner in exchange for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sticky hugs.

So, my little loves, will you please be my Valentines?

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“A Discovery of Witches” crosses genres, but is it a good thing?

As promised, I’m starting the book review section of this blog.  I read constantly.  I don’t stick to one genre, and I will read the instructions to a toy or the back of a cereal box if I don’t have a book handy.

I just finished A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  I chose this book solely by the cover (I know, a sin among readers).  We recently took a little mini-vacation and I forgot a book.  That’s a really bad thing, because I’m a bit of an insomniac and without something to read, I will toss and turn, waking up my husband and my kids in the confined space of a hotel room.  So we stopped at Target and while my husband impatiently tapped his foot, I grabbed a book that looked okay.  I started it during our trip, but it was sloooooooooow going.  When we came back home, I went back to the book I had been reading before we left, a Kathy Reichs novel that guaranteed me some suspense.

I finished Cross Bones (Reichs at her finest, by the way), and restarted A Discovery of Witches.  It took about fifty pages, but eventually I felt invested enough in the story to want to keep going.

This isn’t the typical witches, vampires and daemons book.  In fact, there were several points in the novel where I forgot completely that there was a supernatural theme at all.  The author becomes very caught up in history, both where it relates to the characters individually and where it relates to the history of the supernatural creatures in general.  Let me just say, I love history.  For me, the best and most interesting parts of the book were when the author got lost in the historical aspects.  If you’re not a history buff, I have a feeling those passages will be excruciatingly dull and wordy for you.

I like some supernatural themed novels.  I love Harry Potter, I’m a fan of Kelley Armstrong, and Shanna Swendson’s Katie Chandler books are fantastic light reads.  I sometimes read long, descriptive historical novels and get so caught up in them that I’m sad when I hit the last page, like I did when I read The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.  And occasionally I read lighter, full-of-humor romance novels, like anything written by Jennifer Crusie.

The biggest problem with A Discovery of Witches is that it tries, in one really long novel, to satisfy and intrigue the fans of any of the above genres.  For me, it pretty much fails in all categories.  It’s too long and in-depth to be a romance novel, it’s too fluffy to truly appeal to the reader of more serious books, and the supernatural aspect feels like a throw-away to fit in with the current “in” topic.

And the biggest irritation of all, for me, is how it leaves you hanging at the end.  It’s like the author is taunting you with the knowledge that you have to buy the second, and third, and thousandth installments in this series to know what happens to the protagonist.  I, personally, didn’t care enough about the protagonist to feel inclined to purchase the next one.

I’d rather buy another Kathy Reichs.

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Beer. It’s what’s for dinner.

Yep, you read that right.  I’m part of a recipe sharing group on Facebook and there was a very intriguing recipe posted for Bisquick Beer Bread.  You use about half of a beer, and it’s Friday, so I figured it was the perfect night to drink the rest.

Well, then I googled the recipe to see if there were any reviews or hints or variations (it’s a compulsion, honestly).  I didn’t find any, but I saw a recipe for Beer Braised Crockpot Chicken.  While this recipe ruined my plans for a pre-dinner drink, it looked so good I just had to try it.  This one I did modify, a lot, because there were some ingredients I didn’t have, and it didn’t seem like it would have quite enough flavor without some additions.

I love crockpot meals.  My baby is always at his fussiest right when I’m trying to prepare dinner.  I just know he does it on purpose because whatever I’m making, he can’t eat anyway.  So, I can pull a fast one and trick him if I use the crockpot.

This was a good one.  As I was making the sauce, it smelled suspiciously like red beer and I wondered about eating red beer chicken.  But the flavors blend seamlessly into a sort of barbeque sauce.

As for the Bisquick Beer Bread, this is a recipe for which I have no suggested improvements.  Go ahead, read that again.  It may be the only time it is ever typed as part of this blog.  I loved it, and I plan to make it again and again and again.  Carolyn, your recipe is in a very small group of those that I didn’t alter. Thank you!

And you have my absolute permission (as long as you’re over 21, and I’m pretty sure anyone younger than that has more exciting things to do than reading my blog on Friday night) to open a second beer and drink up while cooking.  TGIF!

Beer Braised Crockpot Chicken

  • 4 to 6 chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup ketchup
  •  1 to 2 TB chili powder (I think, the more the better)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 TB prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 6 oz beer (I used MGD, but this would be really good with a stout beer)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into medium sized pieces
  • 3 to 4 carrot sticks, cut into medium sized pieces
  • 3 to 5 red potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • Dash each, salt and pepper
  • 2 TB butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 TB flour

Place onion, potatoes, carrots and celery in the bottom of your crockpot.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, place on top of vegetables.  Mix remaining ingredients together until blended.  Pour over chicken.  Cook on low for at least 5 hours.  Wait!  I know it sounds like you’re done, but you’re not.  The original recipe said to add flour straight to the sauce, but anytime I’ve ever done that I’ve ended up with clumpy gross sauce.  So I used a buerre manie, which means kneaded butter in French, and is pretty much just a last minute roux.   In a small bowl, add flour to margarine and use a fork to mix it into a paste.  Add it to the crockpot in spoonfuls, stir, and cook another 30 minutes so it thoroughly blends in and thickens the sauce.

I’m not even going to guess how many helpings this actually is.  It fed 2 of us, because my husband ate three helpings.  I guess he enjoys beer for dinner!

Bisquick Beer Bread

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 oz beer (again, I used MGD, but I think a stout would be awesome)

Mix Bisquick, sugar and beer together until they form a dough.  Place in a greased loaf pan.  Cover and let sit until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

I baked this early in the day because I didn’t want the beer to go flat after I opened it for the chicken.  About 30 minutes before dinner time, I spread butter on the top and put in back in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Warm, buttery, goodness.  I think this tastes like a really dense sourdough with crumbly edges.

This bread is so good that I just had some for a snack a few minutes ago.  And let me tell you, it was made for garden vegetable cream cheese.  I’ve always said I love cream cheese on anything.  Apparently, that includes beer.

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