Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last week, Cody traveled to Chicago for a conference.

It was just me and the three amigos...on our own!

I have to admit, I was feeling a little overwhelmed when Cody left on Monday.
My energy is around 75% these days, and the kids' energy is around 300%.
It's not the best combination.
However, the kids totally stepped up.
They made their beds everyday, picked up their clothes and toys, and just obeyed magnificently.
The days went by quickly.

The nights on the other hand...
My lovely neighborhood turned into the ghetto.
I propped chairs in front of every door as my security system.
I slept with my phone in hand, ready to dial 911.
We left lights on all over the place.
Every noise woke me and had my heart pounding.

Anywho...now you know I'm a little crazy...

The weather provided several chilly rainy days that just begged for some comfort food.

We have to enjoy our mushy, casserole-ish foods while Cody is gone.

This recipe was a perfect fit for both needs!

Try it on the next rainy, chilly day!
(but not today when it's 81...you'll melt!)

Chicken "Pot Pie" with Crunchy Brown Rice Crust
(LOVE Whole Foods for this easy gluten free recipe!)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing (I used olive oil)
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 1/2 pound)
1/4 pound sliced button mushrooms (I omitted these)
2 teaspoons chopped thyme, divided
1 large carrot, chopped  (I used 3 large carrots)
1 rib celery, thinly sliced  (I used 3 large ribs of celery)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup brown rice flour (or unbleached white flour if you don't have rice flour)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium gluten-free chicken broth  (regular broth works, too)
1 cup whole milk  (I used 1% milk)
1 cup cooked brown rice or brown and wild rice blend
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup frozen peas (I used a whole cup)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with oil; set aside.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, carrots, celery, onions, salt and pepper and cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add broth and milk, stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until very thick, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine rice, cheese, paprika, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Stir peas into chicken mixture then season with salt and pepper and transfer to prepared dish.

Scatter rice mixture evenly over the top then arrange dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until bubbly and crust is crisp, about 30 minutes.

The thyme added so much flavor!  

Sort of wish we had just one more helping of leftovers!

Don't forget...chairs save lives.
I'm sure of it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thrifty...gone wrong!

Last week, I was attempting my hand at a little EXTREME COUPONING.
(You may have already heard this story...I always sometimes have a problem with repeating myself.)

Cody was out of town, so I took a whole evening to scour blogs, print coupons, make lists, and prepare my strategy for a major couponing trip to Target.

MY MISSION:  1/2 price groceries.
MY TACTIC:  a long detailed list and an envelope FULL of coupons.

It took literally FOR.EV.ER to match up all my coupons and stacked coupons with the correct items.
Like two hours of my life I'll never get back. 
I may have been having a horrid hot flash by the time we hit the checkout.

The boys had been more than super amazing and well-behaved.

We were in the home stretch.

Friendly cashier...check!

Everything ringing up correctly...check!

Coupon scanning...commence!

Suddenly the anticipated great release of joy like balloons and confetti falling that comes after a successful couponing trip was interrupted about three coupons in (out of like 100 coupons) by this horrible whining voice.

It started ever so subtle and quiet.

Just some dude behind us waiting in line singing, "Baby, baby, baby...oh baby".

The droney whine continued with the same phrase over and over and over, but I quickly just passed it off as a guy with a song stuck in his head.

That is, until I felt the awful, nasally voice getting a little closer.  {Shudder}

I finally turned to take a subtle glance at the horrible noise making man and realized he had moved into my comfort zone (unwelcomed!) and was now pointing at my baby belly while droning on and on and on.  {Super Shudder}

It didn't stop there either.  Soon, the overly confident man had full creepy swivel hips in motion and a very disconcerting circular hand motion extremely too close to my baby belly all going along to his continued whiny, off pitch drone of "Baaaabeee, baaaabeee, baabeeee, oooooohhhh baaaaaaaabee."

AUGH!  At that instant, I so wished I had some fierce background in karate or kung fu.
Everything in me wanted to level the creepy dude.

But, alas, I was frozen and left completely defenseless and speechless.

It was so stunning and unnerving, I couldn't utter a single word.

I looked at the store clerk for help.

She looked back at me completely bewildered by the situation.

She started scanning coupons faster and faster.  On items "free with a coupon", she just quickly punched in random numbers that seemed close enough

We were both completely speechless and stunned.  (and creeped out!)

Normally, my super frank boys would have been full of loudly voiced questions about the unique fella behind us and his odd actions, but not today.  They could only stare with bewildered looks on their faces.  What was happening?  What was that singing?  What was that movement?

No one knew.  It was seriously beyond our wildest imaginations into the weirdo realm.

Thankfully, the last coupon was eventually scanned.  A small sigh may have escaped from me and the clerk as a I quickly swiped my credit card.

The receipt was quickly printed and stuffed into the bags that were being haphazardly tossed into the cart.

I grabbed the boys' hands and our cart.

Without looking back, we hastily hit the door.

The singing faded.  The creepy dude faded into the distance behind us.

We survived and were free!

It may be quite some time before we attempt the extreme couponing trip again...I don't think my ears or my baby belly can take the apprehension of running into Creepy Baby Baby Man again!

By the way...we did save $94 in coupons.  Not sure you'll be able to convince me it was worth it for awhile!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baby Baby Baby

Today we to the hospital to visit friends who had a precious baby boy yesterday.  I think I had forgotten the amount of sweetness that just exudes out of a brand new baby.  Whew!  Too cute!

(I also had flashbacks of the labor pains...oh, so not ready for that yet!)

It's beginning to really sink in for the boys just exactly what's going to be joining our family in just eight weeks:  A BABY!  A teeny, tiny sweet little baby!

As we got off the elevator, McClain grabbed my hand and said, "You better use your purse to hide our baby."  
I asked him why. 
"They might want to take the baby out of you, and dad's not here!"

Carson just wanted to know how they were going to get the baby out...anyone want to volunteer to explain that to him? 

(I prefer stork language, okay?)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fat Friday!

I'm not exactly sure about this,
but I have a strong feeling that BAPTIST WOMEN are gifted in a special area.

This gift they have often shows up at Bridal and Baby Showers, Funeral Dinners, Potlucks and Small Group Get-Togethers in lovely 9" x 13" glass pans.

Ready to know what this special gift is?

I believe it's the gift of 
Perfected Fluffy Desserts.

I'm still sorting through whether this is an actual spiritual gift or more of a Baptist talent.

Last week, I made a Fluffy Dessert to share with our college and single kids that come over on Sunday nights.  

They liked the fluffy dessert

Sure, I could add years to their lives by preparing healthy, nutritious snacks, but those, somehow, never get eaten.  Ahem.

So, I tap into the gift and make the fluff

Berried Delight 
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. melted butter

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. milk
2 c. whipped topping

2 pints strawberries

2 small packages instant vanilla pudding
3 1/2 c. milk

8 oz. whipped topping

Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter.  Press into a 9" x 13" pan.  Chill 15 minutes.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and milk until smooth.  Fold in 2 c. whipped topping.  Spread over crust.  
Top with strawberries, hulled and halved.

Prepare pudding with 3 1/2 c. milk.  Pour over berries.  Chill several hours or overnight.

Before serving, top with 8 oz. whipped topping.  Garnish with a few strawberries.

So, how about it...do you have the gift?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #66:  Eat BEANS!  No, seriously, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, mung beans, great northern beans...legumes...eat them!  They are SUPER inexpensive and full of protein!  Beans pair well with tons of other vegetables, meats, and rice to make quick, easy, and low cost meals!

Here's a new favorite dish at our house!

Black Bean Salsa

 (Thank you Instagram for making my pictures look prettier.)

3 c. black beans (equal to 2 cans)
2 tomatoes (diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
1 bunch green onions (chopped)
2 c. corn (I used frozen corn and ran it under hot water first)

1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients well and pour over vegetables.  Chill and serve with Blue Corn Chips!

Got leftovers?  No problem!  We turned this salsa into the most delicious lunch!
I loved it but was even more surprised at how much the kids loved it!

Black Bean Salad
Prepare 1 c. brown rice (I used 1/2 c. brown and 1/2 c. red jasmine rice that I got on a whim in the bulk aisle!).  Rinse with cold water until cooled.  Mix with leftover salsa (about 1/2 the batch) and serve. 

 What's your favorite BEAN dish?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time Flies...

...when you're having a baby!

This last Sunday at church, I told several people I had just 12 weeks left until this baby would be arriving.

Well, evidently, I've lost the ability to keep track of time.

Today, I was so surprised when the doctor said, "Well, here we are at 31 weeks.  Just nine to go!"

NINE WEEKS.  Wow.  Where did the last three weeks go?


We're so thankful for all the "pieces" that are falling together to get us ready for this baby:

*Lots of help with the reworking of plumbing and electricity in the basement for a new laundry space
(Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!)  I'm sure the baby will love his "closet" dwelling space!

*A steal-of-a-deal crib and a *free* mattress  (Thank you!!!)

*All sorts of awesome baby equipment passed along by sweet friends  (Thank you! Thank you!)

*A new-to-us vehicle that will fit our whole family

*A closet full of diapers thanks to a deal-grabbing friend and my mom (Thank you!)

*A tote full of the sweetest little baby boy clothes passed on from generous friends (Thank you so much!)

Exciting days ahead, my friends!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fat Friday!

I totally need to get some of that vitamin that helps your memory out...but I can't seem to remember what it's called!

Yesterday, I spent an embarrassingly crazy amount of time looking for this recipe...

...had I seen in on a blog

...in an email

...where, oh where? 

I could not remember. 

...was it in a magazine

...or in a link on twitter?

After sorting through foodie emails, blogs, twitter feeds, and magazines, I finally just gave up and decided to glance through my new Everyday Rachael Ray Magazine.

Well, crazy enough...it was right there on page 106.


I had used some deductive reasoning for not checking that magazine first...Rachael Ray is a self-proclaimed cook, not baker.  She certainly wouldn't have this recipe.

Or, yes, she would.

Thankfully, I had just enough time to throw this together before we had to get Cloe from school.

Pie recipes often seem daunting, especially the crusts.

But this one was so easy...not to mention completely delicious!

Rachael Ray's Rustic Tri-Berry Pie
(we made a Bi-berry pie...)

3 containers (6 oz. each) blackberries (about 3 1/2 cups)
(we substituted 3 cups extra strawberries and 1 cup extra blueberries)
1 c. sugar, plus more for sprinking
1/4 c. quick-cooking tapioca (we substituted pearl and it worked great!)
2 T. fresh lemon juice
8 oz. strawberries (about 2 cups), halved or quartered
1 container (6 oz.) blueberries (about 1 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick (8 T) plus 2 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg, separated
1/4 c. ice water (more as needed)

In a large bowl, combine 1 c. blackberries (or blueberries), 1/4 c. sugar, the tapioca, and lemon juice; mash with a potato masher. 

Stir in the strawberries, blueberries remaining blackberries (or strawberries) and 3/4 c. sugar.  Let stand for at least 20 minutes, gently stirring once or twice.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. 
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt.  Add 8 T. butter and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until crumbly.  Continue working with your fingertips until the mixture is flaky.
 In a cup, combine the egg yolk with 1/4 c. ice water.  Drizzle over the flour mixture and stir with a fork until incorporated and the dough is slightly moist but not wet.  (sprinkle more water as needed--I added about 3 tsp)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out to a 13-inch round.  Roll the dough up onto the pin and unroll over and into a 9-in. pie plate.  Center it and let the excess pastry drape over the edges.  Gently press the dough into the pan.

Spoon the berry mixture evenly into the pan, making sure to pour in all the juices that have collected in the bowl. 
Dot the top with the remaining 2 T. butter.  Gently fold the pastry up over the berries, pleating as you go around.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy.  With a pastry brush, lightly glaze the pastry all over with the egg white.  Sprinkle the dough with a few pinches of sugar.

Bake the pie until the berry filling is bubbling well, about 1 hour. (55 minutes for our pie)

Let the pie cool completely (or just slightly, if you're impatient) before cutting. 

Serve with generous scoops of ice cream!
 You'll have very pleased customers!

(They're all in their pajamas and have wet heads...pie was the perfect motivation to speedy things on up before bedtime!)

Mmmm...want a piece?

Thrifty Thursday! (or Friday...whatever Blogger wants)

Thrifty Tip #65:  Before paying the high prices of sewing patterns, check the internet for quality free patterns and tutorials!  Here's a free apron tutorial to get you started!

**Disclaimer:  I am not a highly skilled seamstress and do not claim to be one!  This is the world's easiest project.  You will scoff at my sewing ability and this lacking tutorial...I'm okay with that.**

#1:  Start with 2 square pieces of fabric; this can be 2 coordinating pieces or 2 of the same pattern.  I chose to make my squares 22.5 inches on each side because the fabric was 45 inches wide and I could just cut the piece in half.

#2.  Place fabric right sides inward and pin carefully around the square to hold in place.
#3.  Sew around the edges of the square with about a 1/2 inch seam and also leaving about a six inch opening to be able to turn the square right side out.

This may be a quick process or it may take for.ev.er....depending on the mood that your bobbin case is in.  Mine was in a funk.  But I still won!

#4.  Before turning the square right side out, carefully iron the seams open.  This will help you have clean edges and seems.

#5.  Once square is turned right side out, carefully iron edges again.  Use a small hand stitch to close up the square.  (or have just my mom do it...she's better at it anyway!)

#6.  Fold down one corner of the square approximately 7 inches on both sides.  Iron well so it stays flipped down.  Hand stitch a button in the middle to hold it in place. 

#7:  For the neck strap, cut approximately 15-18 inches of grosgrain ribbon (depending on the size of the child).  Sew on another button--using it to also affix the ribbon to the backside of the apron.  On the other side, sew on a button and use that button to affix a small velcro tab on the back.  Simply affix the other piece of the velcro to the ribbon.
# 8:  Cut 2 more pieces of ribbon approximately 15-18 inches each.  Use a simple top stitch on your sewing machine to attach these halfway down from the top of the apron's fold.  (If you're a really savvy seamstress, you can pin these in place while doing the first stitching around the square so no stitches will be seen.)

VOILA!  A simple apron and fun take-home gift for birthday parties! 

Cloe loves to wear her apron for cooking or painting!
What's your next sewing project?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tulip Time!

Get ready for some picture overload!

Our family day at the Pella Tulip Festival was FANTASTIC!
 The tulips were in beautiful, full bloom!
The weather was perfectly warm and sunny! (perfect for somersaults, flips, and cart-wheels!)
The kids were so enthusiastic! (and obedient!)
 The parade was nice and relaxing! (and brought out our little patriot)
The Dutch food was Dutchy good!
The Dutch pastries were deliciously filling! (as exemplified by Carson's showing of his "full tummy")
The Tractor Rodeo really brought out the brotherly love...for John Deere Tractors!
 The Scholte Gardens provided a lot of photo ops for the little princess and her princes!
It was the **perfect** day!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short...

I've noticed that the really good bloggers always provide their creative ideas and enthusiastic tutorials
ahead of a special holiday.

This blog works more along the lines of "here's what we did and I'm just going to document it so I don't forget".

Okey Dokey?

Here's a little look at the special treats we made for Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother's Day.
For the original (really good) tutorial, click here.

**Tin Can Treats**
1.  Start with a pull tab can.  This can was 77 cents at Wal-mart.  I was really surprised at the range of price among all the grocery stores--some were well over a dollar!  Next time, we'll be buying a case at Costco where they're 65 cents.
2.  Use your can opener and cut off the BOTTOM of the can.  Empty fruit (or whatever is in your can), wash and dry thoroughly.
3.  Fill can with the favorite candy of the person you'll be surprising.  (Cloe's teacher loves Hot Tamales and Swedish Fish.)  The $1 boxes of candy just barely filled the cans.  Just an FYI:  this would be a little spendy to use M&M's.
4.  Cut a strip of paper just wide enough to cover the can and long enough to wrap around.  Glue or tape it on the can.
5.  Stuff a little tissue paper in the bottom.  This will help to fill up your jar and provide a little protection for the candy from the next step.
6.  Take a hot glue gun and run a little glue around the inside edge of the can.  Press bottom firmly back on the can.  (The original creator put the glue right on the lid, but this way worked better for me.)
7.  Glue on a cute little label printed from Our Best Bites.  Tie some pretty ribbons on the tab.  Voila!

Aren't these so cute?  I'm just crazy impressed with the creativity rolling out of blogs these days!  (not mine...the one's I copycat!)

What's your favorite blog to copycat?