Friday, March 18, 2011

9 to 5, spring break, and more!

Cory started a new shift this week! He works from 9-5, Monday through Friday! This may not seem like a big deal, but it really is. He has not had a normal schedule like this in the entire (almost) 12 years we have been married. I am pretty flipping excited about it!!!! If you have seen me in person, you are probably tired of hearing me go on and on and on about it!

Jack and Harry are on Spring Break this week, so we took a rocking trip to Carlinville for the dentist. I'm pretty sure you'll be seeing footage of it on MTV's Spring Break coverage. On the plus side, Jack did awesome at the dentist, and we were able to meet sweet baby Madeleine (my niece/the kids' newest cousin) for the first time! She's so tiny and perfect!

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with friends at a House Party. It was for a new Philly cream cheese product. If you don't know about House Party, you should definitely sign up! You can apply for all sorts of FREE parties for different products. They send you a ton of free stuff. The weather was wonderful, and the kids loved playing outside with their friends. They were excited that some leprechauns stopped by while they were sleeping, leaving a trail of shamrocks that lead to a rainbow with a pot of gold!

Also this week, I finally sent in our paperwork to join our local farm co-op. I have been wanting to join the past few years, but have always been too late to get a slot! We are splitting a share with friends, which makes it pretty affordable. It will be so nice to get farm fresh, locally and sustainably grown produce once a week from May until October! The farm we joined is Embarras Valley Farm. I am aquainted with the family that owns it, and their son is in Jack's class, which I think is pretty cool!

Last, but not least, Addie turned 11 months old this week! How is my baby growing up so fast? At least now, it is more socially acceptable for me to be obsessing over her birthday party planning. I won't have to hide it at the risk of seeming crazy like I do when planning it 6 months in advance!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A slow (cooker) week!

My awesome friend, Melinda, started a crockpot recipe exchange. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with my crockpot (about a month!) This week, with a bounty of delicious sounding new recipes at my fingertips, and feeling inspired by A Year of Slowcooking, (she cooked in her crockpot everyday for a year!) I decided to cook in my crockpot everyday for a week. I have to say, it made dinner time soooo much easier. Instead of having to get dinner ready when the kids were starting to get hungry and whiney, and when I was already pretty worn out myself, I could get dinner in the crockpot in peace while the boys were at school. By the time the end of the day crankiness started, I could magically whisk them to dinner without any wait! Here is what I made (a big "Thank You!" to all the ladies who shared the yummy recipes)...

Cranberry Chicken (Thanks Marissa!)

6 chicken breast halves, divided
8-oz. bottle of catalina or creamy French, salad dressing
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
16-oz can whole cranberry sauce

1. Place 3 chicken breasts in slow cooker
2. Mix other ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Pour half the sauce over chicken in the cooker.
3. Repeat steps 1 & 2.
4. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hrs., or until chicken is tender but not dry.

I served this over whole wheat noodles. It was really yummy. Not overly sweet, and a little bit tangy. This was actually the second time we had this in a month. We liked it that much!
Porkchops with Cranberry Stuffing

This was really good, and really easy. The porkchops were so tender, and every member of the family loved them! A happy side effect of all this crockpot use is, that since the meat does come out so really tender, it is easy for even the smallest mouth at our house to chew! (p.s. The picture is from the Pillsbury website. My presentation was not quite so pretty!)
Chicken and Dumplings (Thanks to Jenny! This is possibly Cory's new favorite meal!)

4-5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup (low sodium)
1 onion, finely diced
2 (10 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
chicken broth

1. Place the chicken, butter, soup, and onion in a slow cooker, and fill with enough broth to cover.
2. Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. About 1 hour (or more) before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Make sure to poke the biscuits down into the broth. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

This was amazingly delicious. The word "love" was used by my family when talking about it!
Buffalo Chicken Sandwhiches (Thanks to Laura for sharing!)

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 bottle of buffalo wing sauce
1 8 oz pkg of Neufchatel cheese (like cream cheese)
1 package of dry ranch seasoning mix
chicken broth for milder flavor (I used 1 1/2 cans of broth)

Combine ingredients in crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours or until chicken pulls apart with fork. Serve on rolls.

I really, really liked this. With the cream cheese, it was like a sandwich version of the buffalo chicken dip. The kids were a harder sell, but they ate it. Next time I make this, it will be for adults only so I can keep it hotter!
Chicken Quesadillas (Thank you Miranda!)
2-3 chicken breasts- cooked and shredded- I did this in the crockpot with some chicken broth and water, frozen, chopped onions (best cooking idea ever!) and a package of taco seasoning
package of tortillas
jar of salsa
package of shredded cheddar cheese
Layer salsa-tortilla-chicken-cheese until all ingredients are in the pot.
Heat on low for 1-2 hours until cheese is melted.

Cory was a little skeptical when he saw this cooking, but all of us ended up really liking it. It was so easy, and will definitely become a regular meal in our house.
Hawaiian Chicken (Thanks Jennifer!)

2 pounds of skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 can pineapple 20 oz drained
1 small can mandarin oranges drained
1/4 cup corn startch
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
soy sauce - four or five shakes of the soy sauce jar (Confession: I just used packets left over from getting Chinese takeout.)
Put everything into crockpot and stir until everything is mixed well. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours or 3 hours on high.
I served over brown rice.
This was our second time having this in a month, too! This will definitely become a regular favorite at our house!
Crockpot Candy (Thank you Laura!)
Crock-Pot Candy
1 16 oz. jar roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 16 oz. jar roasted, salted peanuts
1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bar (4 ozs.) german chocolate, broken into pieces
3 lbs. (two 24 oz. pkgs.) white almond bark, broken into pieces
Put ingredients into a 4 or 5-quart crockpot in EXACT order as listed. Cover and cook on low 3 hours. DO NOT remove lid! Turn off and allow to cool slightly. Mixture will not be melted but will be soft. Mix thoroughly and drop by teaspoon size cookie dropper or a teaspoon onto wax paper. Let cool thoroughly. My batch came out to about 100 pieces!

I was pretty much waiting/hoping for an excuse to make this, and luckily we had a church potluck! It is so, so, so, good. I had to stop myself (and Cory) from licking the spoon every I was scooping to make the pieces. And, making this meant my family got to actually eat one non crockpot dinner!

Everything carefully layered in the crockpot

Cooling on wax paper
The finished product!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spread the word...

Today is "Spread the Word to End the Word" Day. I think it is pretty common knowledge that I really hate it when people use the "r word." It is demeaning and dehumanizing. You can (and, I hope, will!) click here to take a pledge to stop using the word.

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