Monday, December 15, 2014

Menu plan for the week of December 15 and beyond

...at least I don't have to worry about food.  Here's what's coming up on the table for the Bluefield family.  Everything else?  Is up in the air.  It's all good, though.  Here's to another week (or two) of waiting for the King.


--Pizza, salad
--Grilled chicken, grilled garlic bread, salad, leftover veggies
--Spaghetti, carrots
--Sesame chicken strips, green beans, peaches
--Calzones, salad
--Grilled pork chops, parmesan potatoes, grilled broccoli
--Baked bone-in chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies


And beyond...
--Sunday night stew (on Monday! Scandalous!), cream cheese mashed potatoes, salad
--Beef stroganoff, corn, salad
--Grandpa R's chicken rice soup, crackers, salad
--Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad, Brussels sprouts
--Dr. Pepper pork, 30 minute rolls, broccoli/carrot/cauliflower medley
--Shepherd's pie, whole wheat bread, applesauce


Other:
--Taco bean soup
--Turkey stock for canning
--Apple crisp
--Brownie pecan pie
--Cookies
--And more cookies


What are you eating this week?

Friday, December 12, 2014

This week in review

Some stuff happened this week.

Ok, well, a lot of stuff happened this week, including my husband telling me that it was a hardship for him to go to Mexico because the high temps were only (only!) supposed to be in the mid-sixties.  And rain!

And then, you know, there was the afternoon/evening I moonlighted as a taxi driver.  Driving, pretty much constantly, picking people up and dropping people off from 3:30 to 8:30 pm.  Those people are poor tippers.

And then, there were my girls.  Love them to pieces.

Followed by our group's reservation for volunteering at the Operation Christmas Child shoebox processing facility being canceled because they're FIVE DAYS ahead of schedule. So disappointed.

And now today I'm doing a favor for a friend in the morning, followed by this in the afternoon (love this Christmas tradition).

But none of that stuff matters because I GOT MY NEW FUZZY PANTS in the mail!  I looooove them.


That's MC on the left, followed by AKD, Me, and Bubby.
Our fuzzy pants all match!  This makes me happy.
Hubby is not pictured, because 1) poor guy was suffering through mid-sixties and rain in Mexico, and 2) if we took a picture of him in his jammies, it would not be suitable for posting on this family-friendly blog.

How was your week?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Holiday Survival Kit

Y'all!  This is a tough time of year for lots of people, for lots of reasons.  It's just like us humans to take something holy and wonderful and turn it into...well, all of this.  The compulsive shopping, the perfect decorations, the crazy!  The loneliness, the depression, the failed expectations...

I was recently introduced to Man Crates, and their awesome gifts for men.  Looking at all of their crates got me thinking about what I would include in a holiday survival kit to make it through the tough stuff.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I just don't stress out at this time of year the way many of my mommy friends do, and so maybe I don't really need a holiday survival kit.

I don't do anything at this time of year just because someone else expects me to.  If it brings me joy, I'll make it a priority.  If not, well, it's just not worth it.  

And yes, I'm in a fairly unique situation is this regard.  We don't have family, or a whole lot of friends, nearby, at least not friends who want to get together for Christmas celebrations.  So we don't have any parties to attend or any family obligations.  And over the past year I've gotten really good at saying no.

Which is not to say that I'm not super busy at this time of year, I am.  There are lots of things I would like to do before Christmas.  If I get to them, great.  If not, that's OK.

With that said, here's what's in my holiday survival kit:


Dove Promises--Mama's gotta have her chocolate.
If it has a little crunch, so much the better.  My favorites (you know, just in case...) are dark chocolate hazelnut and peppermint bark.

Lots of fresh veggies, lean protein, and water AND exercise--because when you're treating your body right, it'll treat you right.
Good-for-you food and exercise are the ultimate stress-buster.  This month, I'm doing this Countdown to Christmas challenge from Piper's Run.
Image

My lists--oh, my lists!
If I don't write it down, I will forget it.  I need to make a list of my lists :)  It's on one of my lists, somewhere, to make this printable weekly agenda available to all of you...

Fuzzy pants--because it's all about comfort.
As soon as I have made it to the point of my day when I am no longer going to need to appear in public, my fuzzy pants are on. It's like my little reward for making it that far.  Sometimes? I get up in the morning, take a shower, and put my pajamas right back on.  Those are the very best kinds of days.

Inexpensive, easy, go-to gift--one thing that brings me joy is giving to others.
But breaking the budget on giving gifts to every.single.person to whom I would like to give gifts is a little bit of a joy-stealer.  And having to think about gifts for every.single.person?  Huge joy-stealer.  So I like to come up with a thoughtful, but inexpensive gift to give to everyone.  This year, it's these Hot Cocoa Gift Jars from the Magical Slow Cooker.  I love this, because if the recipient doesn't want it, it's easy to regift.

A good devotional--to keep me grounded in joy.
This year I'm reading The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, both by Ann Voskamp.  I am loving this trip through God's love story.  These devotionals offer great suggestions for unwrapping God's love in the world, and keep me thinking about others.

A healthy dose of GRACE-- because I can't do it all, and I really don't have to.

Your turn: what's in your Holiday Survival Kit?

If you're still looking for a gift for a man in your life, check out Man Crates--the gift you open with a crowbar.  Not kidding.  I can think of some guys (and girls, hint, hint) who would love to receive one of these :)  They're not giving me anything to say that--I just think they're cool.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Menu plan for the week of December 8

We have another busy week ahead of us, my friends.  Not sure why all these medical and dental appointments are happening right now, and then we've got extra holiday celebratory stuff going on.  What it all means is I have to be very intentional in how I organize my time.  I'm scheduling all of my time this week, right down to when to do the laundry.  Deep breath...here we go.


Here's what's on the menu this week:


Supper:
--Dr. Pepper Pork, 30 minute rolls, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots, mixed greens
--Slow Cooker Pepperoni & Chicken, oven roasted Brussels sprouts
--Out to eat
--Pizza casserole, green beans, salad
--Nachos with guacamole and taco toppings
--Grilled chicken, garlic bread, salad, mixed vegetables
--Grilled pork chops, smashed potatoes, grilled broccoli


Christmas Tree Meringues


Other:
--Taco bean soup
--30 minute rolls
--Meringue trees
--Christmas Vanilla Cake Roll
--Granola
--Gingerbread
--Giant Monster Cookie


A simple vanilla roll cake with red and green dots and spirals of creamy buttercream. Recipe from Roxanashomebaking.com


What are you eating this week?

Friday, December 5, 2014

This week in review

Y'all!  This was a busy week.  Made it through, though.  Here's what happened.


We started by returning from our Thanksgiving trip to find that none of our gas appliances, including the furnace, was working.  Thankfully, the gas guy was able to come out and bang on some things and we were good to go.


On Monday morning we had Bubby's surgery follow-up appointment.  The surgeon is pleased with how his scar looks, and is hopeful that the dent in his face will fill back in on its own.  Bubby's face is now, for the first time in almost 2 months, band-aide free, and we are thrilled to be putting this whole thing behind us.


Later in the day, I took AKD in to get his braces off, 3 months early.


On Tuesday, I headed off on a field trip to the science museum with MC.  It was all going well...until I lost 2 kids.  Oops.  Turns out they were on the bus?  While I was scouring the museum for them and trying to hold on to my other 4 kids?


On Wednesday, my first day actually home in more than a week, I made a list.  My list had 17 items on it.  I actually managed to cross 8 things off of it.  I was so impressed.  And then I added another 5, bringing me to a net 3 to-do items crossed off my list.  Whoo hoo!  Later in the evening I did a mystery shop.


Thursday morning I got together with my girls.  Love them.  That afternoon MC had a dentist appointment.


Friday (that's today!) I knocked another few items off my list, and took my Hubby on a mystery shopping date.  Now I'm watching a fun chick flick all by my lonesome, and telling y'all about my week.


How was your week?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of December 1

Hey y'all!  It's a new week, and a new month!  We just returned home from our Thanksgiving trip (great time was had by all), and found that none of our gas appliances (including the furnace) were working.  We're still not exactly sure what the problem was, but the gas guy came out and banged on some things, and now we're back in business.  However, the temperature in our house was down to 49 degrees, so it'll be a little while before it warms back up (even with the furnace and gas fireplace going).  So I'm sitting here all bundled up, typing in my gloves.  If you notice any weird typos, that's probably why.


So...December.  Can you believe it?  I need to figure out which Christmas treats we'll be making this year.  And by we, I mean me.  This weekend, I asked MC if there was anything in particular he wanted to do in December.  You know, like family fun activities.  He didn't have a whole lot of ideas, but he did say he wanted to make cookies.  When I pressed him on it, he admitted that what he really wanted was for me to make the cookies, and him to eat them.  So much for family fun activities.  *Sigh*  Good thing I love to bake.


Here's what's on the menu this week:


Supper:
--Pizza casserole, green beans, salad
--Spaghetti/zucchini noodles with meat sauce, garlic bread, mixed vegetables, salad
--Fend for yourself/ramen/corn dogs, carrots
--Pizza or chicken pizza, salad
--Baked bone-in chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Tacos, taco fixings, including guacamole
--Dr. Pepper Pork, rolls, mixed veggies, salad


Other:
--Greek yogurt (I have to use a new starter, 'cause I ate all my homemade yogurt last week--it was so, so yummy!)
--Peanut butter granola bars
--100% whole wheat 30 minute rolls
--Guacamole

Monday, November 24, 2014

What's for Supper

So...what's for supper?


What's that you say?  I'm supposed to be telling you what's for supper?  Ehh.  I figured it's your turn.  We've been a little...preoccupied...over here, and the meal planning brain cells are being used for other things.  Like keeping heads above water.


In mid-October, Bubby was running through the woods, tripped, and fell, impaling his cheek on a stick.  A trip to the ER and 4 stitches later, we thought we were done.  We'd keep the laceration clean, it would heal, and we'd move on with our lives.


Nope.  Over the next 2 days, Bubby's cheek proceeded to swell to well over double its normal size.  Monday morning we were at the clinic, where the doctor told us he thought there was a foreign body (aka part of the stick) in Bubby's cheek.  He told me that he thought it was probably just a little sliver, and would work its way out the same way it went in.  He instructed us to call if the swelling hadn't gone down in 48 hours.
You guessed it--48 hours later, no change, so the doctor sent us to the ER at the Children's hospital.  The ER doc and his plastic surgeon sidekick didn't seem to think it mattered whether or not there was something stuck in our baby's cheek.  Instead, they were concerned that it was infected.  They offered to cut it open and clean it out, but recommended that we start with the least invasive treatment.  We went home with foul tasting antibiotics and instructions to call if either it got worse or there was no change.


It got better.  The swelling went down, and Bubby's cheek started looking normal again.


Until a few weeks later, when we noticed the cut was sinking, forming a dent in Bubby's face.  And then another week later, when localized swelling started just right over the original injury.  And there started to be a lot of drainage.


Last week we went back to the plastic surgeon who said (as we had been saying for weeks) that it shouldn't be taking this long to heal.  Apparently, it was infected again, and the infection was feasting on the fat in Bubby's cheek!  On Friday, the plastic surgeon cut open our baby's cheek and cleaned it out.


Out of our baby's cheek came a piece of wood about the size of a dime.  A dime!  The surgeon said it was right on the surface, too.  Came right out.  How could everyone have missed that in 4 previous visits to health care professionals?


Anyway, now we're back to taking foul tasting antibiotics, and hoping that this time, we really are done.  Bubby was a rock star, and he's doing great.


My friends, I just don't have it in me to be planning meals right now.  So.  Tonight we'll have leftovers/fend for yourself.  I think we'll probably have turkey on Thursday, but the rest of the week is up in the air.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chicken Crust Pizza

What is it about pizza that makes it a less healthy food?

Well, first of all, pizza toppings tend to be high in fat and sodium. Now I'm not saying that those are bad things--we do need both in our diets--but pizza toppings tend to be some of the worst culprits, giving us way more fat and sodium than we need.

Then there's the crust--it's full of simple carbs that jack up your blood sugar and leave you craving more carbs a few hours later.

Not much I can do about the toppings, except to tell you to make better choices (more veggies, less processed meat).  But what if I told you I found a recipe for a gluten-free, carb-free pizza crust that actually tastes just like (or maybe ever better than) the simple-carb version we all know and love?

Oh yes, I did! I know you don't believe me.  Just trust me on this, and try it before passing judgement, m'kay?

You make your crust out of chicken.  That's it!  Chicken!  I know!  Crazy, but it works!

Chicken crust pizza topped with cheese, mushrooms, red peppers, pepperoni, and chopped tomatoes.
This particular pizza does not have sauce on it, because Hubby used it all for the traditional pizzas he was making.  Hubby was cooking, so how can I be upset about that?  Just making sure I get my sauce first next time!  He always puts on way too much sauce anyway...
Here's how you do it (adapted from here):

Pound a 4-6 oz chicken breast as flat as you can--1/4" thick is good.  Brush the chicken breast with olive oil and season (salt and pepper is good; crushed garlic is even better--but use your imagination.  Any pizza herbs or spices will be divine).  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Next, add your toppings.  Pizza sauce, tons of veggies, turkey pepperoni or sausage, and of course, a little bit of cheese.  I've been using real grated Parmesan and 2% mozzarella--so yummy!

Put your pizza back into the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

That's it!  I have heard, that if you want to make one large pizza for several people to share, you can just pound your chicken breasts out into a cookie sheet or pizza pan, making sure they're touching, and they will link together during cooking, forming a larger crust.  Then just add whatever toppings you wish.

Honestly, try it.  I'm pretty sure you'll like it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shoebox Collection Week!

Y'all!  When I said on Monday that it doesn't really matter to me what the date is, I didn't realize (well, of course I didn't), that it was November 17th!  November 17th!  Do you know what this means?  Of course!  This is national Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection week!  Ack!  I can't believe I almost missed it!  Of course, I'm planning on bringing my boxes with me to the processing center when I volunteer there next month, but you all might not be able to do that.  You might have to actually get your boxes to a collection center this week.

There is still time, my friends.  Make a box.  Or two.  Or ten.  Or a hundred.  OK, there might not be enough time to make 100.  But you can definitely do one or two.  Click here for my tips on packing a box.  Click here for OCC shoebox guidelines.  Click here to find a collection site near you.

As for me, like I said last year, this year I packed just 2 boxes, and then bought a bunch of filler items to take with me to the processing center.

Sorry I didn't get a better picture of the boxes and/or everything laid out.  I just didn't have the heart to unpack everything to show you, because believe me, these boxes are packed!  Not sure if I could get it all back in again.

What's in the boxes, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  In both boxes, I have:

  • a bar of soap
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • flashlight with lots of extra batteries
  • calculator
  • reusable cloth bag
  • glow sticks
  • gum
  • lifesavers
  • a picture of my family with a note and our address


In my boy age 10-14 box I have:

  • a small hammer
  • screwdriver set
  • tape measure
  • safety glasses
  • fleece gloves
  • a shirt
  • a survival kit that consists of fishing gear, fire building supplies, and cording


And in my girl age 10-14 box I have:

  • 8 yards of fabric in 3 different prints
  • a sewing kit consisting of needles, thread, scissors, etc.
  • extra thread
  • socks
  • small mirror
  • brush and hair binders


 And here's a peek at my filler items:


Your turn: did you pack boxes this year?  What's in your box?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Road Trip Tool Kit--Bubble Gum

It's not exactly road trip season, but a lot of people do hit the road at this time of year, visiting family for holidays, so I thought I'd share another secret weapon in our road trip arsenal, to be used only in case of emergency: bubble gum.
Hubba Bubba Original
Yup, that's right, bubble gum.


Let me set the scene for ya.  It's August.  Our family has just spent about 45 hours traveling vast distances together in our Suburban in the past week, when we hit what is perhaps the worst rush hour traffic we have ever seen.  We are sitting still more than we're moving, and when we are moving, we are inching painfully forward, less than a car length at a time.  Someone has to go to the bathroom, more than one someone is hungry, and pretty much everyone is ready to crawl out of their skin.  It's an hour and a half in to what is usually about a half hour journey through the city, and we are less than halfway through.  Did I mention I was driving and Hubby was on a conference call for work?  Yeah.  So much fun.


That's when I deployed the Hubba Bubba for...what else?  A bubble blowing contest.  Bubby was just 4 at the time, and could barely fit his piece in his cute little mouth to even chew it.  MC couldn't figure out the technique and kept spitting it out when he tried to blow.  AKD was competent, but I have to say I won, hands down. 


It was hilarious, as in my tummy hurt from laughing so hard.  While our contest was going on, we had to be quiet for Daddy's phone call, which just made everything funnier.  The bubble blowing contest provided just enough silly to snap us all out of our traffic-and-travel-induced funk.  And the best part?  Our bubble blowing contest kept us fully occupied for a good half hour.   A miracle, to be sure. 


Hubba bubba, I humbly thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu plan for the week of...whatever today is.

That's right.  I have no idea what the date is (other than that it's November teen-something), and can't be bothered to look right now.  Any of y'all have this problem?  It's been...oh...about 15 years since I've known what the date is.  And honestly?  That's OK with me.


Know what's not OK with me?  My husband eating my candy corn.  True, I don't like candy corn, so he probably thought I wouldn't want any, but ugh!  I told him not to eat it!  He should know me well enough by now to know that any candy corn he finds after Hallowe'en is mine, all mine.


Anyway, we're going to eat this week.  Not sure about next week, but this week, we have a plan.  That includes eating.  And here it is:


Supper:
--Hamburger Casserole (aka that stuff with the soy sauce, involving lean ground beef and diced potatoes); salad, green beans
--Grilled chicken, salad, broccoli/cauliflower, carrots
--Hot beef sandwiches, buns, green beans, raw carrots
--Pulled pork sandwiches, salad, mixed veggies
--Corn dogs
--Baked bone-in chicken breasts, baked potatoes, mixed veggies
--Hamburger stroganoff


Other:
--Almond butter
--Scarecrow treats
--Pretzel turkeys
--Oreo snowmen

Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of November 10

As I write this (Sunday night), we are staring down our first measureable snowfall of the season.  They're calling for several inches beginning right around rush hour tomorrow morning.  I say, bring it on.  If it's going to be cold, there might as well be snow on the ground so we can enjoy it.  I just hope I am able to get around, 'cause I got places to go, people to see.

This colder weather makes me crave warm, hearty, delicious comfort food.  Mmm.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:
--Bone-in chicken breasts, baked potato or sweet potato, mixed vegetables, zucchini noodles
--Taco bean soup, crackers
--Spaghetti/spaghetti squash with meat sauce, garlic bread, green beans, salad
--Southwest chicken and beans, tortillas, mixed greens
--Pizza or chicken pizza, raw veggies, salad
--Carnitas, tortillas, black beans, lettuce
--Shepherd's pie, whole wheat bread and butter

Next Monday:
--In the words of AKD, "that stuff with the soy sauce."  Neither of us can remember what it's called, but it involves lean ground beef and diced potatoes, and we serve it with soy sauce.  So yummy!

Other:
--Granola
--Greek yogurt
--Pumpkin pie
--Honey whole wheat bread

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grandpa R's Chicken Rice Soup

This is so much more than a recipe, my friends.  This is family history and fond memories all rolled up into a hearty, satisfying bowl.  This is us, sitting at a table in a cramped kitchen with Hubby's grandpa years ago, recording a decades-old, but never written-down recipe.  Whenever I make this soup, I can picture Grandpa R sitting at the table, gesturing emphatically, sharing the secret to his chicken rice soup.  It's all about the rice.

A few weeks ago, I shared on Facebook that I was making this soup, and a cousin of my husband's mentioned that she'd like to have the recipe.  As I told her, I can give you the recipe, but no way can I replicate the explanation that went along with it--that exists only in my memory.

This soup is thick and meaty, delicious, and the very definition of comfort food.  I hope you like it as much as we do.


First, you need 3 good-sized chicken breasts.  Grandpa was talking about whole, bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts.  As in, I would call this 6 breasts, but back in the day, that's how they bought them, still connected to each other.   Put them in a big pot, and cover them with water.  Bring it to a boil and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

When the 40 minutes have passed, remove the chicken from the pot, and set aside to cool until it can be handled.  SAVE the broth!   When the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones, and shred the chicken.

Measure how much cooking liquid, or broth, you have, and add canned chicken broth to equal 12 cups.  One can of broth equals 2 cups of liquid.

Put the chicken back in the pot with the 12 cups of chicken broth and add 1 c. of finely diced celery and 3/4 c. Uncle Ben's Converted rice.  It must be converted, or the soup won't taste nearly as good. Can't be having heathen rice in our soup.

Bring the soup to a boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

That's it.  I think Grandpa R was a little taken aback that Hubby had even asked for the recipe, it's so simple to make.  The house smells heavenly and the memories are sweet when I serve this soup.  As you can probably tell from the recipe, this makes a lot--this soup freezes extremely well, and I think it tastes even better the next day.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that sometimes, to bump up the nutrition, and make this a one-pot meal, I add a 1 lb package of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots during the last 10 minutes or so.  I have also been known to add 1/2 a cup of raw, chopped spinach to my bowl before ladling in the soup--either way it's delicious, and a tribute to Hubby's much-loved grandparents.

What's your favorite family recipe?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg: A Review

I recently read The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg.



In Afghanistan, girls and women are worth nothing aside from their ability to produce sons for a family.  The birth of a boy is cause for celebration; the birth of a girl, cause for shame and ridicule.  In a culture where honor is everything, and appearances must be kept up, what's a girl to do?  What is a family to do when they've produced no sons?  They create one.

While on assignment in Afghanistan, reporter Jenny Nordberg uncovered, quite by accident, the practice of bacha posh.  Literally translated as "dressed up like a boy," a bacha posh is a girl, temporarily raised as a boy and presented to the world as such.

This book brings us along on her journey to dig more into the practice of bacha posh.  Along the way, we are swept up in the lives of Ms. Nordberg's vivid characters, learning more about the hows and whys of bacha posh, and the effect on the girls, their families, and their society.

I found this book to be just fascinating.  I found it hard to put down, and that's rare for me, when reading nonfiction.  I needed to keep reading to find out what became of the families that Ms. Nordberg met along the way.  The author's story-telling is exceptional and her themes reach beyond Afghanistan, examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who are oppressed everywhere.

Bottom line: This book was fascinating and made me think.  Highly recommend.

I received this book for free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.
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