Tuesday, April 28, 2009

a winner

Ok, I'm not a bean person. Honestly, I'm not even crazy about green beans. But I know they (not green) are nutritious and cheap and I need to try to work them into more meals. I'm trying to put the memories of third grade boys at lunch going "BEANS?! Beans make you ****," etc.

I was actually looking online for a crockpot chicken "processing" recipe that I can just throw a bag of frozen breasts in with some spices and cook, cut up and re-freeze to use in my meals, but this looked good and I had the ingredients so I thought I'd try. We don't eat Mexican-type food much because the oldest is so dang picky, but I figured she'll have to sit though a meal she may not like tonight so we all can try it. It got 3 votes for "really good" and a "umm, its good. Maybe make it again so I can try it again and decide" from said picky eater.

So I wish I had taken a picture of the girls eating this meal tonight. It was really cute and I think they liked that they got to eat tortilla chips as part of a meal. I usually don't (knowingly) make super un-healthy meals like this, but once a week its fine by me :) It was easy!

I identified it as "Cheesy Chicken with tortilla chips" to the kids because something like "Santa Fe chicken" would conjure up weird excuses not to eat it.... and comments about Santa, lol.

Easy Chicken Santa Fe

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (mixed in 1/3 can, served the rest on the side)
2 15.25-ounce cans whole kernel corn, drained (I used 1 c. frozen)
1 cup bottled thick and chunky salsa (used 1/2 cup - all I had)
5 or 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 8-ounce brick cream cheese (good use for a frozen one)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. In a 3.5 or 4-quart electric slow cooker, mix together beans, corn, and 1/2 cup salsa. Top with chicken breasts, then pour remaining salsa over chicken.

2. Cover and cook on high heat setting 2.5-3 hours or until chicken is tender and white throughout. Do not overcook or chicken will be tough.
Remove chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add back to slow cooker.

3. Add cream cheese (cut into cubes to melt faster) and add shredded cheese - turn cooker to high heat. Heat until cream cheese melts and blends into sauce. Serve over rice(I served over broken tortilla chips instead).
Serves 4.

original recipe link here

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A bit personal

So I've kept this blog pretty impersonal. Not because that was my intention, but because I don't have the time for blogging like I hoped when I set this up (no regrets though!). But I feel the need to vent and this IS my blog... so here goes...

I am a SAHM (stay-home mom) and have been since having my oldest 6 1/2 years ago. Now that my younger one is going to possibly start preschool next year (which would make 2 years of preschool for her) I am considering the long-term picture of my kids' education and my career. I attended college for 3 semesters, and thankfully got into the architecture program at NDSU for my sophomore year. The program has changed a bit (Masters instead of Bachelors - still same length of time though) but if I finished up (assuming I wouldn't have to re-take anything) I'd be done in 3.5 years. OR I can go for the pre-professional degree and be done in 2.5 years, which might be ok too. NDSU is 4 hours from my house, though. There are only about 6 universities that meet my criteria that I'm considering and all would require re-location. That's a pretty big jump for someone who has been a SAHM for so long and relying on one income (that would possibly have to change, unless I go to K-state, then one/both of us would have big commutes). Arg.

On the other hand, I can get an architectural drafting degree (AAS, I think) in about 2 years, but I'd have to commute a 2-hour round trip each day. Which would mean possibly enrolling my kids in THAT school district and taking them with me each day. (I wouldn't want both of us parents being an hour from them[in different directions] should anything happen). And of course, I'm feeling like that drafting degree wouldn't be as fulfilling, artistically or financially (down the road, anyway). And who knows if I'd have to start all over again to get the arch. degree. Ugh.

And of course, I can keep doing what I am doing. I had a hard time the first few years with feeling validated being a SAHM when the world around me continued on. I really had to give my career to God (several times, lol) and finally felt peace about it only when I decided I was going to wait for an opportunity to basically fall in my lap. Then I'd consider it and His will for it. Recently a opportunity presented itself (in a rather informal way) that got me thinking again.

I like being a SAHM, but as much as I like my peace and quiet, I don't know if it would be good for me to be home THAT much. I know I'd enjoy it at first (who wouldn't!) but after a school year I'd probably be bored. Which brings me to my other first concern: The kids' education.

Ideally, I'd like to limit how often they move, geographically or even just their school districts. It may be inevitable for our older one but I'd like to complete whatever educational/geographic goal there is before our younger starts Kindergarten. As a kid, I was born and raised in the same home (my parents built it shortly after marrying) until we moved when I was 16 (but stayed in the same school district). That continuity really meant something to me. Sadly, with how our culture is, that isn't as easy anymore. Especially now. People are lucky to stay at a job for 5 years.

When my husband and I first married, we made the choice to finish his degree first (1 year vs. my 3 1/2). We couldn't do them in the same town. Then he was offered his job where he is working today, commuting an hour each way to his job 4 days a week (thankfully he can work from home on Mondays). He is going on 8 years of service at that company now. He thinks he may be able to work from home more often in a few years if we had a more ideal setup (such as finishing a bonus room above a garage). Right now, in our current home, there isn't room for a quieter office. I usually try to get out on Mondays with the little one, lol.

Our older daughter has lived in three homes now. Our first home, near our hometown, and then when we decided to relocate to a better commute for my husband, we moved into an apartment (which was supposed to be less than 6 months but turned into 16) and then our home now. She probably doesn't care as much as I do but it would be nice to live somewhere long enough to re-decorate! Arg!

Funny, when my husband and I chose to get married, our theme verse was "Be still and know that I am God" (ps. 46:10). Yeah. I think I'm kinda bad at that! Can you do me a favor and pray for us if you like? I'd appreciate it!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Let the garden grow, part 2

Well, we got the dirt shoveled out of that bottom bed this past week. That was about 25-30 wheelbarrow-fulls and thankfully, we had this weekend's rain coming as our motivation to hurry up and get it done before it all got soaked (and a lot heavier to move!)

See my chives coming up on the third bed on the right?

So here is our plan for this years garden, although I'm not sure about the watermelon, cantaloupe or squash, and am planting the carrots after all. I might try some new techniques to help with spacing(seed taping) and try lasagna gardening, too. I also had to try growing leeks (I've never even knowingly eaten them!). Oh, and by the way, my garlic is growing well in that pot. I have 5 coming up for sure.

What do you think? This is year three of gardening for us. I honestly would appreciate constructive criticism. I don't know if we will be able to afford compost this year, so I might back fill the planted plants with some of that black dirt that had been resting in our bottom bed all last year. Or I might take some of the loam from under the trees at the perimeter of our property, come to think of it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let the garden grow!

Can you guess which one is going to be the tallest?

So spring has come early to my house. We had some March snowstorms that were absolutely depressing to see. I was bored and snowed in (more or less) so I had to do something. I planted peas in an empty egg carton. They grew and grew and I transplanted them to my windowsill garden. The girls saved their empty yogurt containers and we planted pumpkin seeds and gourd seeds and flower seeds. We added crushed eggshells to everything (that pic above is my little one helping me out with that). I also saw my friend Michelle's blog about how a friend is growing garlic at her hobby farm and got me wanting to do the same. So I did some research and planted some in a big pot around the third weekend of March (when it was around 30 degrees) and took my chances that they would have enough of a dormant period to come up. They are! (it helps that one of my cloves I planted already had started to sprout in my cabinet! Hopefully that is ok!) I will have to post my garden layout soon. I've had it done for quite some time. But here are some pictures of what I've been up to lately. Not grocery shopping. Ugh! Sorry I haven't posted deals lately. I guess you can see where my priorities are... As for the dishes... there is a saying that I'd like to quote. "Thank God for dirty dishes!"

So the pea plants put all that sample dental floss you get to good use! I strung some floss between 2 command adhesive hooks at the top of my window (and one in the middle for support) and tied on individual strands of floss, one for each vine. I then anchored the floss strings into the dirt by tying them onto some long screws we had left over from a project and stuck the screws into the soil. That has worked pretty well at keeping the strings where they should be. Then I did the pain-in-the-butt task of training all the vines onto the strings (and re-training... they seem to like the string next to them more then their own!). Ta-da! They are now 2/3's up the kitchen window now. Not sure if I'll transplant them or what. I did take the time to put my screen in the window and wash my kitchen window before putting up the vines in case I feel like letting these guys hang around all summer. But they block my view and its annoying. But it got me through the last weeks of winter!

This is of my pot outside with 2 of the garlic cloves starting to poke up. Its a 50/50 mix of sand and potting mix, so its pretty light dirt for them. I've come to the conclusion that while harvesting the food is nice, I like to just have something to putz around with and try new things to see if they will grow. I guess that's my Grandpa in me :)