Trip Preparations (we think) plus dinner-on-the-fly

Today was mostly spent getting ready for the trip tomorrow although we weren’t sure for sure if we were going to be able to go. My youngest nephew has run a fever the last few afternoons, and, like his cousin Rene, is prone to febrile seizures if the fever spikes. Today, he seems fever free and eating healthily, so all of us have breathed a big sigh of relief. So tomorrow, “dark and early” (if I can get the boys up and going) we will be leaving for my sister’s. Three days of family fun and cooking up recipes (teaching Deb to make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and she teaching me the secrets of the family chickie and dumplins recipe).

We went to the library today, which gave Rene time to play with the toys there as well as pick out his favorite I Spy book (A to Z because it’s one of the ones with pictures) while I picked out Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Great news: a few weeks ago the bugs that decimated the squash moved on to the cucumbers and killed (we thought) all of the cuke plants with cukes growing on them. Today Josh found…blossoms…growing on at least one of the cuke plants.

We brought Daisy to the vet today to board her (which is really a pedestrian term for a diva princess like Daisy). She will be treated to midline luxury (they have suites that have TVs that play Animal Planet and animal-full shows and movies–no reality TV so we don’t do that to Daisy). The main thing we wanted done to her while she is there is her nails clipped (although after the chili and blue Hawaiian punch incidents a bath is definitely in order). She is also getting a “brush out.” She was very happy and excited to be going to the vet; I think she’s treated like the VIP diva that she is while she’s there.

We also had to go see Granny and Granddaddy because they had some stuff for us to take down to my sister’s. Rene kept them company during that time. I showed Mom this blog as well as the Cassie Craves blog and the Pioneer Woman blog (and favorited them to her laptop).

Then came the great dinner argument that didn’t occur at breakfast because we had three chicken breasts (left over from the chicken breasts from yesterday) continuing their thaw in the fridge. Finally, in a stroke of near brilliance, we dumped Italian dressing on them in the bag (I knew that big bottle of Great Value would come in handy), tossed them on the George Foreman grill, and grilled them until done. We then sliced them up, spread mayo down the center of a tortilla, placed said chicken on the mayo, sprinkled green bell pepper down the middle, sprinkled onion on top of that, sprinkled sliced green olives on top of that (LOVE LOVE LOVE green olives), (this is where Josh and Rene deviated from me…they used BBQ sauce, honey BBQ sauce) drizzled more Italian dressing down the middle, and covered the row with cheese. Then we rolled it up, ate, and repeated. Rene actually at most of his roll-up (as well as over half a cantaloupe on his own). The pics:

Rene’s favorite part of the day would probably be when he helped with the laundry (if you don’t count going to the library).  He loves to lift his clothes into the washer.  He had to hug his Perry the Platypus blanket before putting it in the washer.  It was so cute!  (but, unfortunately, no camera was handy  😦   )

How do you prepare for big trips?  How do you make the trip preparations fun for little ones?

Cheers and Happy Packing!

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What to Do with All of the Laundry Samples You Receive…

Josh is going to be going to Georgia twice (for two weeks each) in the next couple of months for job training for his new job. During those visits, he will have to do the laundry at least twice. I’ve been wondering what to do with a lot of our laundry samples (some of them are not HE-friendly which means they cannot be used in our washer), so I decided to make him a laundry kit with a Tide-to-go pen (not a sample, but necessary), Purex 3-in-1 sheets, detergent packets, and dryer sheets. I divided the 3-in-1’s into three strips. I added in a special note that he will find when he opens his laundry bag.

All of this went into a quart sized baggie labeled “Laundry Stuff”

What do you do with your leftover samples?

Cheers and Happy Sampling (I would say happy Laundry-ing, but that’s a chore I’m about to have to work on)!

The Weekend Wrap-Up

Yesterday and today were spent getting ready for upcoming trips (to my sister’s, Josh to Georgia x 2, and my upcoming trip to New Orleans next month) as well as some long overdue mending and hemming (for example:  my favorite pair of pants that busted a button when I was pregnant with Rene…over two years ago).  I still have one more pair of pants to hem, but I have to wait until Rene goes to sleep so that Josh can help me mark them.  All this is being done without a sewing machine, so if you see some interesting hems on my clothes when I’m out and about, don’t laugh…please!

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Rene hugging Daisy.  He loves her so much.  We were getting ready to go to the Lowe’s Build and Grow where Rene was going to build a Madagascar 3 Luxury Assault Vehicle.

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Rene again was able to get a better photo of Daisy than I could.

Rene at Lowe’s, dressed in his Build and Grow apron.

If you haven’t taken your little one to Lowe’s for a Build and Grow activity, it is great fun…and free!  They supply the kits and all of the materials, and they give the kids an apron, goggles (which Rene refuses to wear), patches for completion of each activity, and a certificate for the completion of each activity.

The finished product and the proud Rene.

At Lowe’s, they had their trees and berry bushes half off, so we purchased two blueberry bushes (that were larger than our present ones and they have blueberries  still on them) for $10 a bush.  I worked on part of dinner (see below) while the boys worked on planting and watering them.

Daisy “helped” as well (trying to incite drama with the neighbor dog)

I worked on prepping the French fries for Josh to fry.  I’ve recently fallen in love with Nadia G’s prep method for fries.  She soaks hand-cut potatoes in sugar water (1/2 cup sugar per cup of water) that gets rid of the excess starch and gives them a slightly sweet flavor (and helps them to brown).  Last summer, when we were in Ontario, I visited several chip stands after falling in love with properly fried French fries (super crispy and brown on the outside with those lovely little bubbles that potato chips sometimes develop, a smooth almost creamy mashed potato texture on the inside).

We also had tilapia and some of our garden okra fried in a cornmeal/flour dredge (equal portions of each plus Old Bay seasoning) after being dipped in egg.  It wasn’t necessarily the HEALTHIEST meal, but it was delicious.  We served it with green tomato relish (yum!) and my tarter sauce (half a cup of mayo, 2 tablespoons sweet relish, a few dashes of hot sauce, a teaspoon and a half of lemon juice, half a teaspoon dried parsley flakes, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste).

I also worked on a travel necessity/treat for Josh for when he goes to Georgia.  If we are lucky, it will last for both trips.  I will post about it in the next post.

Sunday I again worked on mending and hemming while the boys mowed, edged, and blew the yard.

After that and lunch, we took a drive to help Rene fall asleep (He seems to fall asleep for naptime only in the car anymore).  I had already put out the chicken breasts for tonight’s dinner, discovered from Pinterest and courtesy of CassieCraves (which I spent several drooling minutes…okay…hours…perusing after preparing the recipe):  Jalapeno.  Popper.  Stuffed.  Chicken.  Breasts.  Josh, of course, was worried it was going to be too spicy and made me promise that I was going to remove the seeds and the white part that makes them so spicy (I didn’t have gloves, so I covered my hands in two plastic sandwich baggies and got busy).  I had to change my recipe a bit.  I’m going to list the address (I still haven’t figured out how to add a link to where it would hyperlink without listing the link at the top–which in this post would make no sense), but I’m going to list the recipe with my adaptations below.

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken Breasts

heavily adapted from Cassie Craves (http://cassiecraves.blogspot.com/2009/05/jalapeno-popper-stuffed-chicken.html)

4 chicken breasts (Unfortunately, mine were larger than 6 oz. –much closer to 12 oz. to 16 oz.)–For stuffing, it works better if they are slightly frozen.

8 oz. cream cheese (We used some from the freezer and it worked great!)

1 cup cheddar cheese

4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

2 jalapenos, seeded, deribbled, and minced finely

2  cups panko bread crumbs seasoned with your favorite seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Old Bay, cilantro, what-have-you)

half a centimeter height of oil in a cast iron pan

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cream cheese (mashing it slightly), cheddar cheese, bacon, and jalapenos until blended.  Slice a pocket into each chicken breast opening it wide like a pita (It will resemble a chicken pita).  Stuff the breasts with the cream cheese mixture.  Pour panko bread crumbs (for added crunch) into a shallow baking dish.  Roll the stuffed chicken in the bread crumbs, packing it and pressing it (being sure to coat it completely) the cheese-mixture-filled pouch.

I admit it:  I’m a cast-iron convert.  Cassie Craves’s recipe calls for a specific amount of oil that wouldn’t be enough for the large pan we used.  So, Josh just eyeballed it while I prepped the rest of dinner (peas, tomato slices from the remaining ripe tomato from the garden, and the last of the blueberries).  Brown the breasts on all sides, two at a time, moving the first two to a plate to brown the remaining two.

When all four breasts are brown, invite the first two back to the party and shove the cast iron pan into the oven.  Cook until done (Our huge honking breasts took 40 minutes, during which time the lovely jalapeno aroma will cause more than one family member to resemble Pavlov’s dog…and I don’t mean Daisy, although she looked pretty interested in the goings on in the oven).

Serve with ranch dressing for dipping (like true poppers).  I didn’t eat it with ranch, but Josh and Rene did.  We served Rene half a breast because they were so huge, and he ate all but one bite (He probably would have eaten it all, but Daisy swiped his last bite…grrrr).  Josh ate his breast plus the other half of Rene’s.  I would consider this recipe a success.

I do think, however, that I might try making it in casserole form next time.  I might try cutting up the chicken into nuggets (browning them), placing them in the bottom of the pan, spreading on top the cream cheese mixture, and topping with seasoned panko bread crumbs drizzled with bacon grease, popped in the oven until GBD (golden brown and delicious) and gooey.

After dinner the boys played Rock Band while Daisy was aggrieved that they weren’t letting her watch reality TV.

I’ll leave you with a picture of another Daisy-got-food-and-beverage-spilled-on-her-shot.  Somehow, Josh spilled blue Hawaiian Punch on her earlier.  Poor girl!

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Cheers and Happy Recipe Blog Perusing!

Rene and the Hose VS. Daisy

Rene’s day began with him doing one of his favorite chores:  unloading and loading the dishwasher.  He meticulously unloads it, placing the utensils in the drawer they belong in.  After that, he sort of loads it (although sometimes he loves unloading the dishwasher so much that he tries to unload what his daddy loads).  His other jobs are to load the dishwasher with soap, close the dishwasher door, and press the start button.  In his two-year-old independence, he becomes very upset if you help him with it (or even worse, complete the job before he can).  I’m so proud of him for wanting to help out so much, but it makes me realize that my little baby is growing up.

Rene loading the dishwasher with his favorite green mug (from the Target Dollar Spot)

Daisy breakfasted on chicken gizzards.

Then Rene snapped off a few shots, including a great one of Daisy and me (I think I’m going to let him digitally capture Daisy from now on).

Ultimately, Daisy’s day did not get better.  Her America’s Next Top Model marathon was interrupted with us going to the library and Brookshire’s.  When we returned home and lunched on chili dogs (from some hot dogs that Josh had grilled and we had frozen), I dropped the chili spoon on her just behind her neck so that the chili that remained was there for her to smell, but out of her reach to eat.  So…Josh and I decided to let Rene go play outside with the hose with directions to spray Daisy.  (This was the fun highlight of Rene’s day.  I think he loved this even more than the pool, which was the original plan, or the local city park with water, which has been planned for the last two days–oh well, maybe tomorrow.)  Daisy loves water, especially “biting” it (as you will see in the pictures below), but I felt bad for her when Rene was done because she resembled more drowned rat than diva girl puppy.  Plus, she was again banished from watching her shows since she couldn’t go anywhere with carpet to mess up.

We went to Granny and Granddaddy’s to take them one of the $0.88 ground chicken pound packages we picked up today at Brookshire’s, and we all laughed because Rene’s answer to everything now is ” ‘up” for “yup.”  He is saying more and more words everyday.  Last night he repeated the words “nose,” “hand,” “hair,” and what sounded a lot like “love” to me.  Of course, when we are Skype-ing with Grandma (Josh’s mom in Ontario), he won’t say ANYTHING!  (although he did finally say ‘up a few times this morning).

In other news, Josh found out that his “two weeks of training” in Georgia for his new job will actually be two sets of two weeks.  He’s really really excited about it.  I’m so proud of him; he has waited for this opportunity for a very long time to actually be able to work in his field of study.  I’m glad he’s had these past couple of months to spend so much time with Rene before transitioning into what will be a full-time-with-lots-of-overtime job.

What funny things happened to you today? (Poor Daisy, but it really was funny!)

Cheers and Happy Laughter!

Happy Mama

My super-dee-dooper meat deal!

We had a few books to take back to the library today, so we stopped at Brookshire’s to buy some pop (I’m slowly weaning myself off of it) and orange juice concentrate so that Josh could make some orange julius.  Well, we didn’t get the concentrate because I got a bit…sidetracked.  Y’see Brookshire’s has fabulous clearance deals on meat, if you catch them on the right day.  Daisy is again very happy with me, Mama.  I bought her some chicken gizzards for $0.25 a pound.  Not too exciting, I know.  But…they were having to clear out 14 ounce packages of Jennie-O ground turkey breakfast sausage links for 88¢ (down from $4.29).  I bought 10 packages to cook quickly and healthily once Josh and I start back to work.  Two packages are for my sister.

Then…I saw the Italian sausage.  Jennie-O turkey again, 88¢ again ($4.77 originally), and I bought six packages (19.5 ounces each).  I’m bringing three to my sister.

And there was 88¢ ground chicken as well.  This would have cost $5 normally.  I bought four packages, one of which is for my mom.

My goal is always a fifty percent reduction in grocery receipts.  We saved, with other items we purchased, sixty-nine percent.

This changed our dinner plans.  We want to try out the breakfast links, so we will have breakfast for dinner, brinner.

What great grocery deals have you nabbed lately?  Please reply and share.  Cheers and happy saving!

P.S. Rene loves Brookshire’s because they have the kiddy shopping carts.  He loves driving his caart with groceries in it.

P.P.S.  Here is a shot of the car-ful of groceries from Brookshire’s.

One of 10 packages of Breakfast Sausage Links

The carload included the meats, the buy 2 cereals get a bacon (and muffin mix, half gallon of milk, and Pop Tarts) free, pop, and a cantaloupe.

I heart cozy mysteries!

I love reading a lot!  One of my favorite reading blogs/author blogs is Cozy Chicks (www.cozychicksblog.com).  All of the authors that write for the site are really nice (very positive when they have communicated with me by e-mail and lots of them re-pin my pins on Pinterest) plus they are some of my favorite cozy mystery authors!

A cozy mystery is one that is usually thematic (cooking, knitting, sewing, books, gardening, beekeeping, etc.) without gratuitous sex, violence (other than the dead bodies), and “foul” language.  I love them because 1.  I don’t have to wade through gratuitous “stuff” to witness the whodunit? 2.  I get to find out about knitting, gardening, beekeeping, and other things I didn’t previously know about, and 3.  They are always very well-written and entertaining.  Two of my favorite writers for the blog, Lorna Barrett and Ellery Adams, even have new books coming out this summer (hint hint for future gift ideas…cough cough!).  I’ve been following Lorna Barrett’s Booktown Mystery series since the beginning.  The newest offering, Murder on the Half Shelf, promises to be spectacular.  For those of you who don’t yet have a Kindle (or other e-Reader), this will be her first hardcover edition (for those of you who only like to read books in hardcover).  Ellery Adams new series, the Charmed Pie Shoppe, is being introduced with Pies and Prejudice.  I’m really looking forward to this one because I’ve seen mentions of it on the CozyChicks blog for a few months now.

Both books will be available on July 3.  While you are waiting (impatiently) for them to arrive/be made available, please be sure to check out their blog at http://www.cozychicksblog.com.

Tonight’s dinner: Turkey Burgers, popcorn, pineapple, blackberries, and (for me) Josh tea

I know I’ve been teasing what we were going to eat tonight in another post or two.  Tonight, we had turkey burgers.  I’ve gotten away from the meal plan (which I plan to return to once Josh starts his new job, especially once the school year returns), so this morning at breakfast, we had that dreaded conversation many people have with themselves at around 5 o’clock on the way home from work:  “What are we going to have for dinner?”

If you are blessed enough to live in the Dallas/Louisiana/I don’t know where else region, and you have an Albertson’s nearby, you may have noticed in your circular that they have ground turkey in one pound rolls for 99 cents.  Ninety nine cents a pound for ground meat.  Healthy meat.  If you read over it or are not blessed enough to have received that ad for whatever reason, I will give you a moment to collect yourself and drool.

A few months ago when ground turkey was under $2 a pound (often times $1.69/lb.), Josh and I stocked up.  In many cases, if the meat is seasoned and crumbled (taco meat, sloppy joe meat, spaghetti sauce) or simply seasoned (burgers), we cannot tell the difference.  Coupled with that fact, ground turkey is supposed to be healthier for you.  In addition, I refuse…let me state that again so that people understand me perfectly well…I REFUSE to pay more than $2 a pound for ground meat of any kind (unless I’m having to make tourtierre and did not stock up when Brookshire’s had it on markdown for 88 cents, but that’s another story–with a recipe forthcoming…probably closer to Christmas).

My sister and I had this conversation a few days ago.  She informed me that ground beef is supposed to rise to $5 a pound.  I simply cannot (and several people cannot) afford to pay that cost.  Ground turkey it is.

With that being said, we placed one of the tubes of ground turkey in the fridge this morning and went about our fun day.  I knew I had those two crusts (heels, as I mentioned in the Artisan Bread in Five entry) that were staring me in the face daring me to do something with them.  I crumbled them up.  The before and after are seen below.

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I then added 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I seem to be on a Dijon kick lately; after making Man-Pleasing Chicken of Pinterest fame, I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff!  I’ve used it to make a killer red wine vinaigrette, but that recipe is forthcoming), the crumbled bread crumbs, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of parsley flakes to the not-quite thawed turkey roll.

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Once it thawed, I mixed it together and formed it into four patties–big patties.  While Josh was out starting the grill, I realized that with the added liquid, the patties were kinda floppy and probably wouldn’t do so well on the grill, so I stashed them in the freezer for a few minutes (not long enough as we were both to discover).

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Josh placed them on the grill (having trouble doing so because of the above-mentioned floppiness and stickiness) and grilled them adding Honey Barbecue Sauce.  He also grilled the wheat buns that we bought recently at the bread thrift store.  (It makes all the difference, believe me.)  Once they were flipped and done, he melted cheese singles on the ones for Rene and him, but I like mine sans cheese.

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We also sliced up one of the tomatoes to top the burgers with that was still sun-warm, even a few hours later.  It was beyond delicious–very acidic and firm!

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Here is what my plate looked like:

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P.S.  I learned one very, VERY important thing:  ground turkey burgers don’t “shrink” on the grill like their counterparts.  I made wide patties that were way too wide for the bun!

Here is Rene enjoying his burger and fruit.

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And a shot of Daddy and his boy enjoying grilling and chilling outside:

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Cheers and Happy Summer!

P.S. Rene slept in his own bed all night last night!  Here’s to hoping for a repeat!  Daisy, on the other hand, decided to take her humanity one step further and slept human-style in between Josh and me.  Sigh