Funny Muffin Friday: The Crayons (“Crowns”) Need to Breathe!

Funny Muffin Friday

To add a bit of levity to the emotion-charged post of yesterday, I decided to write about something funny that the Muffin Man said earlier this week.

We arrived home to find that Angel had again knocked over the crayons on the table so that many of them had fallen to the floor.  After I asked Muffin to pick up the crayons, he put them in his Halloween bucket because he said, “They can be safe in there.  And sound.  And the crowns (crayons) can breathe.”

The crayons in their new home!

Yes, you heard it here first from Muffin.  Crowns (Crayons) need to breathe!

My mind went to a nerdy place.  Do crayons need to breathe oxygen like animals or carbon dioxide like plants?  Or do they breathe nitrogen.  No, I haven’t been sniffing crayons; my mind simply went there!

I can’t resist a poll for this one!

Thoughtful Thursday: The Bullying Paradox

Thoughtful Thursday

This is actually an extremely difficult entry for me to write, but, to me, it is an extremely timely post.  That’s not to say that I want to jump on the overdone bullying bandwagon.  I guess it’s best to begin at the beginning.

Hi, my name is Muffin’s Mama, and I was a victim of bullying.  The first time I remember being bullied was in fourth grade, and I came home crying every day begging my mom to let me change schools (back to my old school where she taught).  Eventually, she did, and my fifth and sixth grade years were spent in relative harmony.  Then, in junior high, I was going to be in the same situation again–a school with those same students who made my life miserable in fourth grade.  I really liked seventh grade; I think that was around the time that I learned to escape through both writing and reading.  I wrote angst-driven poetry and stories in which the bullies were defeated (without bloodshed, or at least much bloodshed) by the bullied.  I had a few friends in seventh grade, but I was by no means popular.  At the end of seventh grade, the school district redrew the school residency lines, and my friends were transferred to another school.  This was the era before the Internet and cell phones.

Eighth grade was pretty much a return to fourth grade.  I became very introverted and wrote and read more than ever.  I decided if I could become invisible, the bullies would leave me alone.  For the most part, it worked, but some of the boys in my class decided to be cruel.  I learned the lesson of most bully victims–if you speak up–or worse, tell your parents and they let the school administration know so that the administration has  to do something, you become no longer invisible.  And if, worst of all, the boys that were bullying you are popular, you become marked.  Even now, years later, I see mention of some of those boys (local businesses, etc.), and I can’t have anything to do with them.  I became known as THE ONE WHO TOLD.  Instead of begging to go to middle school at the feeder school for the elementary school where my mom taught (which was not a possibility at that point), I began begging (in earnest) to be homeschooled.  This is years before homeschooling became a workable option for most people.  I just wanted out–and away–from being afraid to walk the halls.

High school I faded into obscurity again–gratefully.  I took to spending time in the library at lunch, writing and reading, with the other people who were just enough “off” to not fit into the ideal that my high school society (that the popular students) demanded.  A few notable moments of being bullied–mostly freshman and sophomore year–stick out, but, by my junior year, I had perfected my invisibility act.  Or I had just grown up and stopped being a victim.

Often, people say that bully victims today should just deal with it.  The prevailing logic behind that is “As a bully victim, I dealt with it and got over it.”  I remember the rite of passage of learning to deal with it and wouldn’t recommend that torture on anyone.  (And only once in fourth grade was the bullying physical for me.  I was always only bullied by those in my own grade level–and never by “older” kids in my grade because they were usually the misfits, like me)

The solution to the problem is never that simple.

Personally, from being bullied, I learned self-reliance and how to be comfortable just being by myself.  I learned to HATE injustice and to always root for the underdog (because someone needs to).  I developed a “tough skin” that has served me well in my profession.

But I know this:  bullies today have even more of an unfair advantage.  In a world saturated with text messages sent via cell phone, Facebook (known in my class as “the-other-F-word”), Twitter, and other social media, a victim really cannot escape his or her tormentors.  Yes, they can get off Facebook and Twitter, but, in my experience, someone at school will be just dying to tell the victim (as a “friend,” of course) that someone was talking about them on Facebook.  And that doesn’t really keep someone from texting you.

Several states (including my own) have enacted legislation to protect the victims, with very specific guidelines and steps teachers and administrators (and even police!) are to follow.  Yes, bullying is a violation of state law punishable by criminal prosecution if the bully is found guilty.  As a  former victim myself, I applaud the proactive measures to protect today’s youth.

But what if…?  (Have you started to ask yourself that question yet?)  But what if the victim doesn’t talk?  It falls on the teacher and the administrator to notice the signs of being a victim (frequent absenteeism, a drop in grade point average, withdrawn behavior, walking with head down everywhere) and to be aware!  Let’s say that you make a report as a teacher or an administrator.  There is no provision in the law for the victim that is too afraid to stand up.  And, sad to say, that happens.  Frequently.  What if the victim does speak to a counselor or a parent about it but then won’t speak to the administration or the police?  The case against the bully cannot stand.

Another problem is that rarely does bullying involve only the bully and the victim.  There are the “innocent” bystanders.  The friends of the boy who saw a weakness in me in 8th grade and pounced on that weakness, using it against me?  They laughed.  They thought he was funny.  By bullying me, he provided them with entertainment.  And once he got in trouble, they made sure that I knew that I shouldn’t have ever spoken out.  I never spoke out again when someone bullied me, just made sure that I was easily forgettable. If you are forgettable and invisible, you rarely get bullied, remember?

There are those “innocent” bystanders that don’t want to get involved because they don’t want to be a “snitch.”  I had to explain to Muffin this week the difference between being a “snitch” and being a “hero.”  Hint:  a snitch or a tattletale does so to get someone in trouble.  A hero does so to save and/or protect someone.

I’m a big believer in blaming the “innocent” bystanders, can you tell?

Ultimately, bullying is truly a paradox.  Yes, it’s a problem.  Yes, states have enacted legislation to prevent it.  But it’s still going on.  And I, the person who likes to have all the answers, just really don’t know the answer to this problem.  But as a mother, and an aunt, I know it has to be solved–like, decades ago.  In eighteen months, my son will enter kindergarten.  Public school.  Like his father, he’s going to be bigger (taller and broader) than others his age.  I doubt he will be bullied, but how can I know for sure?  I am scared for my son.

Maybe, if we all are proactive enough about it, either 1) the bullies will realize that, like the old song, “we aren’t gonna take it anymore” or 2) the victims will eventually be allowed to have a voice without recriminations, reprisals, or fear of peer punishment from the “innocent” bystanders.  All I know is, “Life isn’t fair, and they should just learn to deal with it” is not, nor should it ever have been or be, an excuse.  And it definitely isn’t a reason.

Tomorrow will be a brighter, shinier, happier, and funnier day as I implement Funny Muffin Friday.  I promise.  Take care, and don’t forget to root for the underdog.

We Plan Wednesday: Planning for Muffin’s Thomas Party! (Part 1)

We Plan Wednesday

Welcome to We Plan Wednesday where the LFam plans for parties, trips, and projects.

Today, I am going to write about my plans (so far) for Muffin’s fourth birthday party in April.  For the second year in a row, he has requested a Thomas and Friends party.

A sidebar about birthday parties:  I know it has become trendy to give over-the-top parties that rival Super Sweet Sixteen parties–for toddlers.  And, I admit, I was guilty of thinking “More is better” last time around.  But do you know what my son and nephews like best about birthday parties?  Blown up latex balloons covering a floor for them to run through, jump among, and bat around in the air.  Not pin the smoke stack on Thomas.  Not Thomas Bingo.  Not Thomas Memory.  Balloons.

So, item #1 is balloons.

Item #2 is the cake.  Cupcakes work best for a child’s party (a fact my sister has proven time and time again–she makes the best cupcakes!), and –I’m about to commit Party Mama heresy here–I don’t think boys especially really care how they are decorated.  They just want cake!  The recipe–the chocolate cupcakes we have now made two weeks in a row–with the same frosting.  Muffin will decorate them with the rainbow jimmies (in minimalist fashion–his most recent cupcake decorating was a few carefully placed jimmies placed decorously in the center of the top of each cake).  I will probably make Thomas cupcake picks to stick in them.

Item #3 is punch.  I have pinned (and for some reason attempted to repin time and time again) a Tiffany blue punch (almost exactly the same color as Thomas) made of blue Hawaiian Punch and lemonade.  I will probably serve them in red cups (Muffin loves James the engine, as well) with straws decorated with Thomas cutouts.

Last year, at Thomas-party-the-first, I put together a “train” led by the Thomas-shaped Easter basket, followed by disposable loaf pans that acted as train cars filled with edibles–pretzel rod “Jobe wood,” popcorn, marshmallow “puffs of steam,” and a few other items.  It was a hit!  The Thomas basket held the treat bags.  Snacks are item #4.

I had also had a “Pin the Smoke Stack on Thomas” game, but the boys had so much fun with the balloons that we didn’t play it.  I may pull it out this year.  This is a possible item #5.

Item #6 is the treat bags.  Color sheets with crayons are a must as well as some blue and red candy.  I will be looking at Party City, Oriental Trading, and the Pinteresting Blogosphere for some ideas–especially “Thomas-y” ones.

When next we visit, I will hopefully have planned the party some more.  For tomorrow, Thoughtful Thursday, I will be sharing my thoughts on a fairly painful subject.

Rene playing with balloons at last year's party!

Muffin playing with balloons at last year’s party!


The party table. My sister hosted Muffin’s party at her house which was totally awesome!

Tip Tuesday: Prepping the Week’s Meals on the Weekend (or Your Day Off)

Tip Tuesday

If you are like me, and you work outside the home, the weekend (or your days off) is really the only time you have to take a breather, reassess, and tackle that meal plan!  Several people have told me this is a waste of time or that it doesn’t fit into their schedule, but this seems to be the only way I can hold true to the meal plan.

As I said in the post from yesterday about meal planning, I tend to focus on leftovers and planned overs to appear several times throughout a week.  Let’s look at this week, for example:

Monday:  Chicken Enchiladas:  I did all preparation for these on the weekend, wrapped the casserole in foil, and placed it in the fridge to bake last night.  Prep time for dinner on cooking day–not counting the actual cooking time–as long as it takes to pull the casserole out of the oven, place it in the oven, pull it out, set the table, grab a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa, and pour the salsa into a bowl–roughly five minutes.

Getting ready to dig in to the enchiladas!

Getting ready to dig in to the enchiladas!

Tuesday:  Subs:  I sliced most vegetables except for the lettuce, tomato, and olives, so that will add a bit more prep time to dinner tonight.  Then, I have to put the meat, cheese, and sauce on the subs and bake them in the oven.  I have to gather all of the toppings.  Estimated prep time for dinner on cooking day:  15-20 minutes.

Wednesday Leftovers:  (I will probably take stuff out of the freezer tonight and place in the fridge to thaw for tomorrow):  For cooking day:  pull items out of fridge.  Put on plate.  Microwave.  Estimated cooking time:  10 minutes.

Thursday:  Frito pies:  After supper on Tuesday, I will chop up the remaining veggies for the haystacks (dice the half moons of onion that remain as well as the green pepper).  Lay out some chips.  Open and heat a can of chili in the microwave.  Top with toppings.  Cooking day time:   roughly 10 minutes.

Friday:  pizza Friday.  The only prep for this one is seasoning some tomato sauce with Italian seasonings.  Cooking day:  prep tomato sauce, slice sub rolls and bake them at 400 for a few minutes to get crispy while gathering the rest of the toppings, top with slather with sauce, top with cheese followed by pepperoni and any other toppings.  Bake at 400 for ten minutes until cheese melts and pepperoni gets slightly crispy.  Estimated time:  20 minutes.

This actually saves a LOT of time and frustration because the last thing I want to worry about after a long day of work is cooking a meal from scratch.

Join me tomorrow for We Plan Wednesday where I will begin the conscious planning for Muffin’s birthday party.

Meal Plan Monday: How to Meal Plan

Meal Plan Monday

Welcome to my new plan to keep my blog current. I am going to have set topic categories each day that I will blog about. Today’s category is Meal Plan Monday.

Some people plan meals while on the way home in five o’clock traffic. If you’re one of those people as I used to be (and sometimes lapse into being again), there is hope.

There are several ways to approach meal planning. Some plan the next day’s evening meal the night before after supper. Some people plan weekly or bi-weekly. As for me, I try to plan my meals monthly (although I often alter it to suit my needs throughout the month).

Even of those who plan monthly, some do a weekly (or monthly) meal rotation, repeating the same items month to month (or even week to week). I do not do this. Yes, we usually have some form of Tex-Mex during the week and pizza usually on Fridays, but I don’t repeat the same 20-30 meals over and over. Although, now that I think about it, that would make things easier.

I also don’t usually plan all three meals a day. As I mentioned in a previous post, I keep a stockpile of items that can be used easily for breakfast and/or lunch. I also try to keep potatoes, canned veg, frozen veg, fruit, rice, and pasta handy for supper sides. I focus on only the main dish of supper with vague mentions of side dishes.

I’ve also built up enough of a rotating protein stockpile so that I can plan most of my meals a month in advance. If I don’t have quite enough, I know that I will have enough by the time that date rolls around because usually the major protein sales follow a predictable pattern. Some people plan weekly based on the circulars. I use the non-perishable and protein items found in the circulars to plan future months’ meals. If a perishable non-protein item is on sale one week, I might swap out a meal using that ingredient for a meal I wasn’t completely happy about making (like lasagna from a super deal on ricotta and cottage cheeses).

I plan with leftovers in mind. Sometimes, it may mean making several things out of one ingredient (such as a roast or boiled chicken), utilizing the mean in two or more meals and the broth for another. Sometimes planned-overs (planned leftovers) means making extra rice when rice is a side to make fried rice later. Sometimes it means having the exact same main dish more than once in a week (or making two casseroles and freezing one for later–or for a neighbor or friend in need). I also sometimes plan a leftover day or a clean-out-the-fridge-and-freezer day. I will be posting my very soapbox-y opinion on leftovers a bit later this week.

So, the meal plan task is much less daunting this way. I know if I have a plan that I won’t be sliding into a drive thru lane (avoiding eye contact with those who judge me for my Taco Bell addiction) or worse, a booth at a “moderately priced” restaurant which, of late, has become disappointing in most cases–or at least not as often.

I try to wait until I have Josh’s schedule so that I know what to plan and when. This morning his boss e-mailed the schedule, so I am super pumped to get planning. I write the meal plan on my special Brookshire’s Celebrate Cooking calendar. Then, each Wednesday when the ads come out, I make my grocery list and (usually) shop on Saturday.

So, looking at this week’s menu plan, I planned the following:

Today: Chicken Enchiladas (ding! Tex Mex)
Tomorrow: Italian/pizza/BMT sub sandwiches
Wednesday: Loony Leftovers (including freezer), hot dog, or scavenge
Thursday: frito pie/chili-frito haystacks
Friday: pizza in some form (ding! pizza)

Tune in tomorrow for Tip Tuesday where I explain what does (and does not) work for me in the Pinteresting Blogosphere.



Muffin Eating Dinner

Muffin Eating Dinner

Please ignore the mess! The mixing bowl in the background (between Muffin and the white mixer) is full of frosting waiting for me to frost the cupcakes. This is of Muffin enjoying his dinner. As I said in a previous post, he really liked the wonton (I think that was his second one with the bite taken out of it in the picture), and he said he liked the chicken and made an “O” surprised face when I told him the secret ingredient was peanut butter. “I love peanut butter,” he said.
He has decided that for the second year in a row he is going to have a Thomas party (although a robot party almost edged it out). So, in upcoming weeks, you will see lots of planning for the party.

Muffin Approved

Muffin’s Dinner Plate

Rene's Dinner Plate

I’m showing Muffin’s plate because his plating is more picturesque. This is the chicken peanut sauce stir fry (see stir fry veg picture for the recipe location) with the sort-of Melissa D’Arabian Ten Dollar Dinners Ginger-Orange Wontons. I say sort of because I don’t have any fresh ginger. I was going to use chopped crystallized ginger, but I couldn’t find it (It really has been one of those days).
So, basically, my version of the recipe is as follows:

Creamy Orange Wontons
16 wonton skins
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (which didn’t quite happen this way, but the next time I make them I will have it be room temperature)
2 T orange marmalade
water, for sealing the wontons
enough vegetable oil to come 3/4 inch up the side of a heavy skillet

Blend the cream cheese and marmalade together using a fork. (It’s kinda soupy.) Add more cream cheese if you want it thicker. Per wonton: place a wonton on a small plate in front of you “diamond shaped,” points up and down left and right (rather than a square). Spoon one rounded teaspoon onto the center of the wonton. Paint the top edges of the wonton with water using your finger. If Muffin had been more interested in the project, this is the part I would have had him do. Slide the bottom up to meet the top, being sure to seal it completely and making sure that no filling is slipping out. As you can tell from the picture, some filling leaked out…a lot. Repeat, placing the filled triangles on a plate, until you run out of filling. Mine made 16. Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe (with a bit less cream cheese and marmalade) made 12. She said it makes 4 3-wonton servings.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Place 3-4 wontons in the oil at a time. When you see the desired shade of golden brown peeking out at the edges, carefully flip over. There is a lot of oil spatter in this recipe. Next time, I will fry with hot mitts on. This is not a part that Muffin can help me with.
When the other side is the desired brownness, exit the wontons to a paper-towel-lined plate, being careful not to place them on top of each other and allowing them to drain of oil. Serve warm.
Note: I mentioned that Melissa D’Arabian said that the serving size is three wontons.
Muffin ate five! This recipe is definitely Muffin Approved.

For a printable version of the recipe, please check out my recipe page.

Muffin Approved

The Infamous Kale Chips

The Infamous Kale Chips

Okay, it’s official. There is a whole spectrum of opinion for the kale chips. Rene loves them. Daisy likes them. I’m okay with them (although I think I’m going to send them with Rene to Mom and Dad’s tomorrow for Rene to share with Granddaddy–I’m still recovering from Kale Jerky), and Josh absolutely detests them. I handed him one when he got home, and he said in a very dubious (scared) tone, “It’s a dried leaf.” So, this recipe is Muffin Approved, but I can’t guarantee much more beyond that.

Muffin Approved

Stir Fry Veg

Stir Fry Veg

This is the bag o’ carrot, onion, bell pepper, and red bell pepper that I prepped this morning for the stir fry. I made the Stir Fry from recipe number 354124 using the peanut sauce recipe and chicken as my protein. I sprinkled each serving with sesame seeds, added sesame oil to the peanut sauce, and used garlic powder in place of the minced garlic (as I couldn’t find my jar of minced garlic). Muffin ate it…well…he ate the rice, the chicken, and the carrots.

Muffin Approved

Weekend Cooking, This Week’s Meal Plan, and the No-Trouble Date Night

Date Night Log

After shopping, I spent today prepping for meals for this week (the first half, anyway).  I diced and sliced onion, sliced red and green bell pepper into strips, and sliced four carrots into coins.  I also cut the chicken for the nuggets on Sunday into chunks.  I made kale chips, put together chicken enchiladas, and fixed Muffin and me lunch (kale chips, clementine orange, pepperoni slices, and string cheese made into a broom for him and leftover fried fish and jambalaya for me).

The kale chips.  Readers who are into organic healthy cooking and have probably blanched in terror every time I’ve discussed what I have made are probably cheering now.  I saw that kale was cheap at Wal-Mart and bought it with the express purpose of making kale chips.  For those of you who are in the dark as much as I was until recently, you make kale chips in the oven after washing and THOROUGHLY DRYING the kale.

Side note:  has anyone ever tried to dry kale?  The salad spinner doesn’t do it.  Wringing it out in a rolled up tea towel doesn’t do it.  Drying each leaf individually is a pain but seems to work best.  I tried to follow Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe on Food Network…tried being the operative word.  You are supposed to remove the leafy parts off of the ribs and thoroughly dry the leaves.  You are then to toss them with a bit of olive oil and salt (that was the fun part) and spread them in a baking pan.  You are to bake them at 275 degrees for ten minutes, turn them over, and then bake them ten minutes more.  They are supposed to be done after this twenty minutes of baking.  A few things that the recipe really didn’t stress:  1)  The leaves need to be spread out and flattened as much as possible.  2)  The leaves need to be in a single layer.  3) They need to be baked until they are crumbly crisp.  4)  It takes much longer than twenty minutes to bake them, and you have to bake them at a temperature closer to 300 degrees.  Otherwise, if you idealistically reach for a bite on the tray, you get to eat kale jerky.  Now, I like kale.  I love it in Olive Garden’s zuppa Toscana (It makes me feel like I’m eating so healthily when I eat the soup just because of the kale.  Yes, I know there is also a lot of cream, sausage, and bacon in the soup, but I can pretend.) and I like it sautéed.  I love seeing it as plate garnish.  But kale jerky (just in case a food entrepreneur who might want to market such a thing is wondering) IS HORRENDOUS!  Luckily, the first piece of it that I fed Muffin was what the recipe intended.  (It has a very light crumbly crunch when prepared correctly.)  He keeps demanding “chips” now and had some with his lunch.

Another Muffin-approved item is clementines.  Yesterday, I bought a 3 lb. bag of clementine oranges at Kroger (the new halo ones).  In one sitting, Muffin ate 5.  Not five pieces…five clementines.  Daisy also likes clementines, by the way; this is sometimes a problem when Muffin is eating them.

I try to super meal plan (planning out a month, if possible) with proteins I already have or know will be available before they are scheduled.  Sometimes it’s altered as the month goes on, but I feel that if I plan it out, I at least have an idea of what to serve each night.  I have sort of become anti-restaurant.  We still like our local Chik-Fil-A and are loyal to a few other places, but more and more places are becoming disappointing.  And I don’t want to pay for things that are disappointing.  Or worthy of a call to the health department.  Especially if I can make what we pay for better and cheaper.  And, if Muffin is going to throw a fit, I’d rather it be at home rather than a restaurant full of patrons and waitresses who stare daggers at me for being the worst parent of all time (since it’s obviously my fault my son is acting up in public).

I’m waiting on Josh’s schedule for February to plan out beyond this next weekend, but here goes for the remainder of the month:

yesterday, Saturday, January 25:  Texas toast pizza (using the Ragu leftover sauce from the cheese sticks and Texas toast slices from Kroger–the regular bread kind, not the frozen garlic bread kind)

Sunday, January 26 (today):  stir fry (I haven’t figured out what sauce yet, but I changed the stir fry from pork which is buried somewhere in one of the freezers to chicken) with chicken, red and green bell pepper (green bell peppers were forty-four cents at Wal-Mart), onion, and carrot; cream cheese and orange marmalade fried wontons (sort of following a recipe I remember from Melissa D’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners), and maybe slices of tomato

Monday, January 27:  chicken enchiladas (already prepped and — very — loosely following my sister’s recipe), refried beans, chips, and salsa

Tuesday, January 28:  originally meatball subs but I didn’t want to make meatballs this weekend and couldn’t find any for a good (enough) price on sale, so now it is more like Subway’s BMT or as Josh says Pizza Subs (thin sliced salami, ham, pepperoni, baked with mozzarella and the rest of the Ragu with Subway toppings–black olives–and probably green as well, bell pepper strips, onion rings, jalapenos, mayo, brown mustard, oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, lettuce, and tomato on either French bread or sub rolls) with chips

Wednesday, January 29:  Looney Leftovers (including some in the freezer) or a hot dog or scavenge (In other words, get mess out of the freezer and fridge)

Thursday, January 30:  frito pie which actually resemble taco haystacks except using Frito-like chips and chili instead of tortilla chips and taco meat (but with a variety of toppings–anything left over from Tuesday’s sandwiches)

Friday, January 31:  pizza in some form (will hopefully save some French bread or sub rolls for this purpose)

Saturday, February 1:  spaghetti or an Italian dish (like my mom’s cannelloni)–something that makes enough leftovers for the week

Sunday, February 1:  Super Bowl! (I’ve always decided that it works best if you don’t have an emotional investment in the Super Bowl because then you can enjoy the game, the commercials, the party, and the pre-game festivities without being super-nervous about your team–especially if you are six months pregnant at the time–Muffin spent the February 2010 Super Bowl doing flips throughout the entire game.)  homemade Chik-Fil-A nuggets with a variety of dipping sauces (including the new Kraft BBQ ranch), little sausages in BBQ sauce and Rotel (My mom’s bringing those), pico de gallo (My mom’s making that using the Pioneer Woman’s recipe), salsa, chips, and the ice cream sundae bar  (I may make another dip to go with the chips, but it depends how next weekend goes.)

I don’t plan every meal because we consume a lot of leftovers, sandwiches, snacky meals, and scavenging; and breakfast because we decide usually that morning what we are having for breakfast.

There are certain quick things we try to keep in stock:  bacon, ham (to fry like bacon in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray–if you haven’t tried it, trust me, you need to), eggs, cereal, milk, oatmeal, hot dogs, sandwich fixins, cheese, breakfast bars or pastries, cans of chili, and cans of soup.  That allows for some flexibility on the breakfast and lunch plans.  Also, I’ve found that meal planning gives me something to look forward to.  The meals that I’m looking forward to this week?  The enchiladas, the stir fry tonight, the Chick-Fil-A nuggets (I’ll probably post that recipe next week), and the sub sandwiches.  I’m also looking forward to the hunting-for-gold aspect of leftovers on Wednesday.

Ah, date night last night.  I had one over-arching goal for date night last night:  no one calling 911 or going to the hospital (which I thought would be next in the logical progression).  Plus, there was something that I felt Josh and I needed to do without Muffin to distract us.  Originally, I had planned to make the kale chips yesterday and serve them during last night’s date which almost shouldn’t count as a date except neither of us used our cell phones or laptop or tablet for any other purpose other than the date itself.

Date Night Log 04:

Planning the Garden

Let me preface this by saying that Josh is on call through today, so he was late getting home from work and could have been called back in at any time (not great for date night).  So, I had to be a bit creative and flexible, so that if Josh was called away, it wouldn’t be catastrophic if we suffered from datus nightus interruptus.

And, we needed to plan the garden.  Last weekend (Sunday and Monday post-fire) Josh, Muffin, and I cleared out part of the garden beds in preparation for what was to come.

Josh used a drawing app on his tablet to sketch out the garden and color-coded it with the different items we were going to try to grow.  Just as with a meal plan, it is best if we (I especially) have a plan for the garden before we go into Lowes, Home Depot, or Ellis Pottery (a local home décor and garden center).  That’s not to say things go smoothly with a plan, but, if you let me enter one of those garden centers without one?  We will be growing about 20 varieties of each vegetable.  Plus things we would never eat.  Note to my readers:  if you see me at a garden center in early spring-late summer, just step back quietly and get out of my way.  I am woman on a mission!

A few of my rabbit hole deviations on the Burpee site last night (seriously, that site is my own special form of crack–and the Burpee catalog–drool!):  “We can grow an apple tree!”  Josh:  “Yes, but where would we put it?  The pear trees are going to grow larger.”  Me:  “Ooooooh, pretty!  I want a passionflower vine that produces passionfruit!”  Josh:  “How long does it take to bear fruit?”  A long internet search later–really, that should be a fairly common question for gardening sites to answer–it takes 2-3 years to grow to maturity to bear fruit.  And the vines don’t live that long–ten years max.  Me:  “Ooooh!  Purple carrots!  Muffin would like those!”  Josh:  A raised eyebrow.  Me:  “So besides the Roma tomato and a slicer or two, should we do cherry tomatoes or tear drop tomatoes.”  Josh:  “I know you like the smaller tomatoes” raised eyebrow “but I like the bigger slicing ones best.”

So, what was the final gardening list?  A bit different from years past.  I am not going to deal with the heartache of woody okra.  We are also not going to have the heartache of cilantro.  Both of us have decided not to go there again.  We will buy our cilantro, thank you very much.

The complete list (and I really had to argue for some of them):











bell peppers







The onion, the turnip, and the carrot are going to be new experiments.  Everything else we have had varying degrees of success with in the past.  I argued for the turnip because you can eat both the top and the bottom.  Although, now that I think of it, I think we need to grow some tarragon and sage…. 🙂

Here’s a brief approximation of the chicken enchilada recipe I made today.  I couldn’t quite make my sister’s recipe because I didn’t have green enchilada sauce, and most of the rest of the ingredients are estimates.

Chicken Enchiladas

2 Albertson’s-sized chicken breasts, boiled and shredded

1 cup shredded cheese, divided (I used sharp cheddar)

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

16 oz. sour cream

1/3 cup milk

1 4-oz. can diced green chilies

1/4 cup onion, diced finely

6-8 flour tortillas

1/4 cup salsa

pickled sliced jalapenos, for garnish (optional)

Mix soups, salsa, green chilies, sour cream, and milk in a medium sized bowl.  Take 1/4 cup of mixture and mix with chicken, 1/4 cup cheese, and onion.  Spray a 9×13 glass pan with cooking spray.  Ladle and spread 1/4 cup of soup mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Fill tortillas with chicken mixture (fairly full) and roll them up like…an enchilada.  Place tortillas seam-side down on the soup-mixture lined pan.  I made six, but I stuffed them pretty full.  I also had larger tortillas, and only six would fit in the pan.  Ladle and spread the remaining sauce mixture over the top.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

If you did what I did, at this point, cover with foil and refrigerate.

When you get ready to cook (or now), preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slide the pan uncovered into the oven and bake until hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Optional:  Before baking:  decorate top with jalapeno slices.

Serve hot with beans (and/or rice), chips, and salsa.

If my sister is reading this:  I’m sorry.  She uses only one can of cream of chicken, no salsa, no milk and adds taco seasoning to the chicken mix.  I would have added the taco seasoning if Albertson’s had had any in the sale yesterday.  I had planned on adding some chili powder and cumin to the mix anyway, but I was also making kale chips at the time, so I forgot.  I did do pretty much her process, though.  Really.  Love ya, sis!

That reminds me of another recipe of my sister’s that I haven’t had in YEARS.  This would be probably a “me only” recipe, since Muffin hates bell pepper and Josh hates blue cheese.  But I might just get another red and green bell pepper and make it.  I think she got the recipe from someone that she used to work with in the DFW area.  You take a baguette and slice it thinly on the bias.  You brush it with blue cheese dressing (ya hear me?).  You dice up the bell peppers.  You sprinkle those on the baguette slices.  Then you sprinkle on the blue cheese crumbles.  And bake them at I want to say close to 400 degrees until the baguette is browned to your liking and the veg are soft.  Enjoy.  Repeatedly.

P.S.  Date night may not have been a night to set the world on fire (after last week, thank goodness it wasn’t), but there were no technical difficulties (thank you, YouTube, NOT!), Josh didn’t elbow me in my foot accidentally almost breaking my foot (It’s finally stopped hurting), and no one had to call 911 or go to the emergency room and no accidental fire burned the top layer of grass in the backyard.  Good, productive date.  ‘Nuff said.

For a printable recipe, please check out my recipe page.

Muffin Approved