white chili

have you heard the joke that anything under 70 degrees is called "chili weather" in texas?  well, guilty as charged, and when i get tired of regular chili, i make this white chicken chili year after year.

one medium onion (i always used frozen chopped)
1 tbl. oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (7 oz.) can chopped green chilies
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
2 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
3 (15 oz.) cans great northern beans, rinsed & drained
8 oz. monterey jack cheese
sour cream, to top

in large saucepan, saute onions in oil until tender.  stir in garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano, cayenne and cloves.  cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. add broth, chicken and beans and simmer for 15 minutes.  remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.  garnish with sour cream (a must for me).  this can easily be made in the crock pot as well.

recipe courtesy of the durning house bed & breakfast in van alstyne, tx.


diy advent calendar

i'm coming into this advent thing a little late. i saw some i liked last year, but they had a little toy for each day, and goodness knows we have enough trinkets. i decided to make my own little advent garland to help the boys have some sense of time concerning christmas. every day they see all of these beautiful things all around and ask "is TODAY christmas?".

i printed out scripture verses (the christmas story) and taped one inside each ring counting down to the day. they will tear one off every morning and my oldest can practice his reading. they'll have fun watching the garland get shorter and shorter...


it's gingerbread time!

at the first sign of christmas, the boys start asking to decorate cookies.  i make them wait until december.... 

5 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 tbl. vinegar

stir together flour, soda, spices and salt.  set aside.  beat shortening for 30 seconds.  add sugar and beat 1-2 minutes.  add egg, molasses, and vinegar and beat well.  not add dry ingredients and beat until just combined.  separated dough into thirds and wrap separately in plastic wrap.  chill for at least 3 hours. (i divide it to keep from making 60 men at one time!)  
unwrap one section and roll to 1/8-1/4 inches on floured surface.  cut into desired shapes and bake in a 375 degree oven for 5 minutes.  This recipe is from my better homes and gardens book and they always turn out soft and make my house smell quite wonderful.

the gumdrops didn't even make it onto the first batch. :)

an upside down man can be a reindeer!

here's a little tip:  use graham crackers to make your gingerbread house. 
it's easier, cheaper, and they can assemble it and eat it as a snack all in one sitting. 


a week of lunches

my boys have always loved my simple little lunches.  i found these reusable containers at kroger, and this is my kindergartner's lunch for 5 days.  not pictured are the drinks, but i usually give him an organic milk or juice box.   i also like to make pasta salad on occasion, and annie's brand has a great selection of different crackers and snacks, but this is what i had on hand this week:

pb & j on honey wheat goldfish bread and cheetos natural puffs.
jello pinwheels recipe found here.

turkey and cheddar on mini bagel and veggie straws.

pb & j with broccoli and carrots and chocolate pretzels.
we also love the yogurt covered pretzels and raisins!

turkey and cheddar with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.
applesauce pouches are the best!

i like to have a little theme for special occasions.
it doesn't take much effort and it makes their day extra special!  
here is an all-orange halloween lunch.


jello pinwheels

a little after school snack

1 (3oz.) pkg. jello
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

lightly spray an 8 or 9 inch pan with cooking spray.  stir together water and jello in glass bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  stir with whisk until jello is dissolved (about 10 seconds).  stir in marshmallows and microwave 30 more seconds.  whisk quickly until marshmallows are smoothly melted and pour into the square dish (the creamy layer will float to the top).  

refrigerate for at least 45 minutes then carefully peel up an end and roll tightly in the dish.  remove and slice to make pinwheels.  serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

these are perfect for school lunches or play dates!


pantry makeover

i have the smallest pantry ever.  it's basically just a little closet with very shallow shelving and it was getting impossible to keep everything organized.  i found these wire-framed canvas totes at walmart for $5 each and they fit just perfectly.  when i want to bake, i can just pull out the "baking" basket.  it's also nice to have a "snacks" basket available so the boys can easily choose their own.  i went for the red (i'm trying to incorporate a little COLOR into my home), even though i initially went for the cream.  they also have green and black.  i might just have to find uses for the other colors around the house...

UPDATE:  i added contact paper!


coconut chicken.

if there's one flavor i love, it's coconut!  coconut pie, coconut water, coconut candy, coconut shrimp, coconut snow cones...i could go on.  so i invented a new recipe to have even more of this wonderful flavor in my life.  you'll need:

chicken breasts or tenders
one egg
canned coconut milk (by the soy sauce)
shredded coconut (unsweetened is actually better in this recipe, but sweetened will work if it's all you have)

whisk together egg and a small amount of the coconut milk in a small bowl.  stir together equal parts flour and coconut on a plate.  coat chicken in egg mixture, then cover in flour mixture.  cook in sprayed pan on medium for about 10 minutes on each side, salting each side lightly.  this could easily be baked in the oven as well.

i use the remaining coconut milk to make COCONUT RICE.  i just cook rice as i normally would, substituting the milk for the water needed.  for an optional dipping sauce:  

honey-peanut sauce

4 tbs. peanut butter
3 tbs. honey
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 tbs. orange juice
2 tsp. soy sauce


dinner salads: the greek chicken

grilled chicken
tomatoes (grape or sunburst)
sliced cucumber (not pictured)
pitted kalamata olives

this is one of my favorite salads. i like it best with red tomatoes and lots of cucumber, but this wasn't mine. :) i don't always serve this as a main course, but as a side year round without the grilled chicken.  my favorite part is the homemade greek dressing.  it's easy and oh so good!  whisk together:

2 tbl. olive oil
2 tbl. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
(this makes enough for 2 salads)

this recipe is from the south beach cookbook.


dinner salads: the blta

turkey bacon
ranch dressing

this is the salad version of the classic blt.  i love the addition of avocado and turkey bacon.  the original recipe (found in taste of home) calls for the dressing to be mayo thinned with a little lemon juice.  it's actually pretty good, but we just prefer ranch around here.  :)  


dinner salads: arugula with tuna

canned white navy beans, refrigerated, rinsed and drained
sun-dried tomatoes
canned tuna
dressing: lemon juice and olive oil

i found this one in a kroger ad/magazine.  it's DIFFERENT-  meaning i'm the only one in the family that likes it, but i really do, so i just have it for lunch.  :)  for the dressing, just lightly toss in the lemon juice and oil.  you'll just need a few drops of each. 


my manicure secret

i like the black tips!  here is another day with the traditional white:

i like to do my own nails.  i love all of the new colors that are available (especially from essie), but i do still like the look of the french mani occasionally.  i start this look with clean nails.  any small round sticker will work, just make sure you press it firmly onto the nail before you begin and remove the sticker when the polish is still wet.  seal with a clear or clear neutral and you're looking professional without spending $30.  :)


ice cream in minutes!

well, not minutes exactly, but it does take under 5 minutes to prepare and no ice cream maker is needed.  it's so easy (with only 3 ingredients) and i intend to keep it made in my freezer AT ALL TIMES this summer.

2 cups whipping cream
one 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

beat whipping cream until thick peaks begin to form.  stir in condensed milk and vanilla.  place in covered container and freeze for ten hours.  serve to alleviate stress. 

the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup honey and 1/2 cup chopped salted, roasted almonds which makes for a nice sweet/savory taste. it was really rich, but wonderful.  pictured about is just the 3 main ingredients with blueberries mixed in.  for the next batch, i'm skipping the vanilla and adding chocolate and chopped pecans.
update:  3/4 cup chocolate syrup and 1 cup chopped pecans to be exact.  this is our favorite variation so far!


dinner salads: the chicken poppyseed

cooked chicken
one can mandarin oranges, drained
one small can pineapple chunks, drained
fresh sliced strawberries
fresh blueberries
chopped pecans
poppy seed dressing (i like brianna's)

one of the things i love most about summer is the food.  we eat salads for dinner several times a week, so i'm going to start an "unofficial" series of our favourites.  there is actually an entire chopped chicken breast (grilled) under all of that fruit and everyone in the family loves this salad.

this is panera's "strawberry chicken and poppy seed" salad.


grilled pizza

whole wheat pizza dough
bbq sauce
pre-grilled chicken
sauteed mushroom and onions
pizza blend cheese

preheat and coat rack with cooking spray and grill dough for 2-3 minutes on low heat until lightly browned.  turn over and top toasted side with desired ingredients.  place back on grill for a few more minutes until  heated through and cheese is melted.

easy and delicious!  i have made this several times and whole wheat pita bread make a nice crust and is easier to handle.   everyone can have their own individual pizza that way too.  another nice variation is marinara sauce topped with lightly steamed veggies and feta. 

happy memorial day!


no bake berry chocolate pie

2/3 cup chopped nuts
1-1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
12 oz. whipped topping, thawed
3 cups frozen berry blend 
3 tbsp. seedless strawberry jam

sprinkle nuts (i use pecans or toasted almonds) in greased springform or pie pan.  melt chocolate chips in microwave and set aside. in large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  beat in melted chocolate and fold in whipped topping.  spread into prepared pan and mound fruit on top.  microwave jam on high for 15 seconds, or until melted, and drizzle over fruit.  cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

i think it might just be the perfect summertime dessert.
adapted from taste of home


the perfect marinade

i've been using the grill.  a lot.

my oven has been out for months, so i finally learned how to fire up the gas grill.  my husband minded a little at first :) but once he realized i had skills, he let it go.  i'm grilling out almost every night, and it's been fun practicing something new.  in my search for recipes, i stumbled on the most wonderful marinade.  i didn't bookmark it, so i unfortunately can't give proper credit, but it's the perfect mix of sweet and zesty.  

3 tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. honey
1 tbl. oil
2 tbs. lime juice
1 tsp. minced garlic

this makes enough marinade for 1 lb. of meat.  just perfect on chicken or skewered shrimp.
i've actually found a recipe for grilled homemade pizza.  i can't wait to try it next!


iced coffee

if you come by my house during the warm weather months, there's a good chance you'll be offered one of my iced coffees!  i've been having them so frequently that i make a container every morning and drink (or serve) it throughout the day.  it's nice to have for play dates as a treat for the mothers and thanks to my lovely sister for the new anthro pitcher, i can now serve it in style.

here's how i like it:
3 parts coffee to one part milk (i usually brew half-caffeinated.)
sweeten to taste before refrigerating (i've been using torani syrup purchased at sam's)

my newest twist on this is to make a tray of coffee ice cubes every morning too.  one 10 oz. mug fills up one tray and it prevents the watered down taste that most iced drinks have after a few minutes in the hot sun.


no bake snack bites

1 cup quick oats
1 cup coconut flakes (i used unsweetened last time and they were just as good.)
1/2 cup ground flax seed (i find mine at kroger.)
1/2 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or mini chocolate chips, chopped dried cranberries or a combination of anything else you might like.)
1 tsp. vanilla

mix everything together and chill for 30 minutes.  once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy!  
store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

these make the perfect after school (or anytime) snack.  they would even work for a quick breakfast on the go. 
 my boys ask for these and love to help me make them.

adapted from smashedpeasandcarrots


making butterflies

we made spring butterflies!  i will tell you straight off that this craft might better suited for GIRLS.  they probably wouldn't want to get so messy!  of course, i had no idea that food coloring was a DYE (i hardly ever use it), but after many google searches, shaving cream did the trick of removing the stains from my boy's fingers...faces...legs...

you'll need coffee filters, food coloring, a spray bottle, pipe cleaners, and thread (or string).

spread the filter out flat and drop the food coloring onto it and any pattern.  lightly mist with water to allow colors to blend.  after it dries, gather in the center and secure with a pipe cleaner.  curl the ends with your fingers and hang them up with thread or string.



spring snack mix

tender white orville redenbacher microwave popcorn
vanilla candy coating
pretzel sticks
easter m&m's

pop the corn, pick out the unpopped kernels and place in a very large bowl.  break the pretzels into pieces and then add everything else.  toss gently.  melt the candy in the microwave for 1 minute and stir until completely melted.  (for every one bag of popcorn,  i use 2 squares of candy.)  drizzle 1/2 over popcorn and stir gently.  add the rest and toss until everything is coated. spread out on wax paper to dry.  (this takes 15-20 minutes).  

i can't even count how many batches of this i've made, for friends, for the boys, for myself.  : )

bunny bait via pinterest


chicken avocado salad

2 cooked, shredded chicken breasts, or one large can of chicken
1 ripe avocado
 2-3 tbl. lime juice

i like a good chicken salad, but i don't care for all of the mayo and yogurt that you usually have to add to get it to taste right.  i discovered this a simple recipe a few weeks ago, and we've been having it for lunch (most days).  just mash the avocado and stir in the chicken and lime juice.  it's so easy, and i'm happy to have found a healthier alternative to a warm weather favorite.  


brownie truffles

one box brownie mix (the kind with the syrup pouch)
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. light corn syrup

combine all ingredients and shape into 1" balls before rolling in candy sprinkles (or whatever you like). i've made these for adults and used chopped nuts, coconut and nonpareils. chill before rolling in coating and chill again for at least an hour before serving.
these actually have the consistency of chocolate truffles and are just the perfect size for little fingers.

happy valentine's day!


"healthy" chicken strips

do your kids like breaded chicken?  i thought so...

4 chicken breasts
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tbl. honey
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 cups cornflakes, finely crushed.  regular cornflakes are good, but kashi or cascadian farms 
(or any healthy brand) would be a little better.

preheat oven to 400 degrees.  cut chicken into strips.  in a shallow dish, combine egg, honey, and mustard.  have cornflake crumbs ready in another dish.  dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat in cereal.  place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until done, turning once while baking.  

i make my own honey mustard using equal parts honey and dijon mustard.   


time for a change

i've gotten rid of my "security blanket" of sorts. i've loved wearing extensions, but i'm ready for a new look. i thought it would take me all year to get up the courage to go without them, but it's been a fairly easy transition. my extensions were the clip in kind, which is the only kind that i recommend, especially if you have baby fine hair like i do.

with extensions:
(i wore them every. single. day.)

and without:
(it's shorter in the back and i usually curl it.)

the green monster

1 frozen banana (peel and slice before freezing or you'll be sorry!)
1 tbsp. peanut butter (or 1-2 tbsp. honey for a "lighter" taste)
1 cup milk + a little crushed ice
about 4 cups baby spinach (or more, or less)

combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.  

this makes a perfect breakfast, lunch or snack and it's a nice variation of my other smoothies found here and here.  it's so creamy and amazingly GOOD.   spinach is an excellent source of vitamins a, c, k, iron, fiber and folic acid.  i've been making one of my smoothies every day for several months and my hair, skin and nails are getting healthier.   actually, i haven't been sick at ALL since halloween when i had a little cold which is amazing considering i've been constantly sick for the entire fall and winter in recent years.   
could this all possibly be due to my daily smoothie?    


roasted applesauce

peel and cut 4-6 apples (any variety) into small chunks. add 1 tbsp. butter (cut into small pieces) and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and a pinch of salt.

cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 min. uncover and bake another 10 min. mash and enjoy!

this is a great recipe to have when your kids start asking to "cook" and makes the house smell so wonderful!


do you ever feel this way?  i loved every minute of the holiday season, but i am so ready for some quality home time.  (mainly to enjoy christmas gifts i have to admit.)  i have many projects lined up for this first part of the new year that i will share on this blog.  i don't want to list them, because i think that jinxes things...i'll just post as i do them.
the first is my little etsy shop (which launched today).

happy new year!