Sunday, February 27, 2011

What is she going to do with all those juice lids?

Some time ago, I asked some of our extended family to save the metal lids for me from any frozen juice concentrate that they used, because I wanted to make a game using them.  I'm pretty sure they all thought I was nuts at the time, and that by now they've forgotten that I even made the request.  But finally, I had almost enough, and was inspired by this post by my crafting hero, Valerie, to start putting my game together.

The concept was to make a magnetic fishing game for Bubby, with letter "fish," but I was not sure how to get letters on my metal juice lids.  Permanent marker? Paint?  I don't have horrible handwriting, but I also don't have a particularly steady hand when it comes to stuff like this.  I had been contemplating attempting to stencil the letters on (which would have been a huge pain) when Valerie swooped in to save the day.  For her project, Valerie used felt letter stickers on round wooden disks to make faux sandpaper letters for her daughter. 
Ding (lightbulb lights up over my head)!  Stickers!  I decided to go with some glitter stickers that I found in the scrapbooking section of a department store, because they were the right size and included both upper and lower case letters and numbers.  Unfortunately, my choices were limited to silver or gold.  I went with gold, because while gold doesn't provide very much contrast with the silver of the lids, silver stickers would have been even more difficult to see...now that I think about it maybe I should have painted the lids first--one color for vowels, another color for consonants, and yet a third color for numbers...hmmm, maybe I'll have to remake this one (Hubby, do we have any metal primer?).  Anyway...
So it's really easy to just apply the stickers, once you've accumulated enough juice lids.  I put the upper case letter on one side of a lid, and the corresponding lower case letter on the other side.  Bubby and Pal helped, so they're not all perfectly centered, but it works.  For the numbers, I put the number on one side, and the same number of paint dots on the other side.  The idea is to work on letter and number recognition, and the texture of the glitter letters (similar to sandpaper), makes them fun to trace with a finger.
Hard to see because of the flash, but that's a lowercase g and lowercase a...
and why did my Bubby have to decide to hold up the two lowercase letters that look a little strange in this alphabet? ...not sure.
The next step was to make a fishing pole.  I just used a dowel we had hanging around (uh, you weren't planning on using that for anything, were you Hubby?), and used some yarn to tie on a doughnut-shaped magnet that I found at Fleet Farm (still the best store ever).
I've started by giving him just the letters in his name, until he can recognize those, and then I'll move on to adding more letters and numbers.  I'm thinking I may hide them in a sensory bin filled with oatmeal (if I can bear to part with some), or rice, or maybe birdseed because we have a ton of it, and the birds won't mind if we use it first before giving it to them; for him to find using the magnetic fishing pole--so much more sporting than just picking them off one by one from the floor.

Hubby, we don't have a 0 or a 10 because I ran out of juice lids.  Don't you feel bad now that you threw those ones away?!?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday snapshots

Now this is a man who's dedicated to feeding his family

Troop 168's newest Boy Scouts:
Ross, Derek, Brady, Code-man, Ryan, Liam

Bird seed sensory bin--not for the faint of heart
(bird seed was everywhere)

Watching koi at the Conservatory

Our very own "karate kid"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Showing some love to our bird friends

At our house, we feed the birds year round, but I am especially vigilant in keeping our feeders full during the winter, when wild birds' natural food supply is scarce.  Because this month is often the most difficult month for wild birds to find food, February has been recognized as National Birdfeeding Month.  This national event was created in 1994 to advance and publicize wild bird feeding and watching as a hobby.  During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help wild birds survive.  


In honor of national birdfeeding month, and because we love our feathered friends, we've repurposed our Christmas tree, propping it up on the back porch where we can see it from the kitchen and dining area, and decorating it with several kinds of home-made bird treats.  Here is what we made and how we made it:

Any of these treats can be customized by adding dried fruits, like raisins, cranberries, or apples; or nuts, like unsalted peanuts or walnuts, to the mix. If you happen to have any bugs, dead or alive, to add, I'm sure the birds would appreciate those as well. To accommodate peanut allergies, depending on the treat, you can substitute vegetable shortening, honey, or other nut butters for the peanut butter; and I've heard that mixing cayenne pepper in with your bird seed will deter squirrels but doesn't affect the birds--just be careful not to breathe it or get it in your eyes, because it deters humans, too.
Bird Garland
This really easy, no mess bird treat is great for keeping small hands occupied--and it helps develop fine motor skills, too.  Just thread cheerios onto a length of string or yarn.  I taped a toothpick to one end of the yarn to make it easier for 3 year old fingers to thread the cheerios.  I tied the yarn through a cheerio on the other end to keep them from slipping off.


Bird Seed Cookies
This reminds me of Big Bird--we have a book in which Big Bird makes a batch of bird seed cookies: mmmm, yummy!  So, just toast a piece of bread, and cut it into a heart or other shape using a cookie cutter.  Spread peanut butter on both sides and press into bird seed.  Poke a hole (we used a bendy straw, which we are never without, to poke our holes), and let dry.  We accelerated the drying process by baking our cookies in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  When the cookies are dry and cool, put string or ribbon through the hole for hanging.


Bird Seed Muffins
Mix 2 egg whites with 1 cup of birdseed--we added a bit of honey, maybe 1 tablespoon, as well, plus the mixture seemed too liquidy so we ended up adding more seed...I'm not sure how much more, because I had preschoolers doing the measuring and they are more in the category of cooks who eyeball ingredient amounts, rather than using precise measures, but just use your judgement.  The person who gave me this recipe said to pack the mixture into terra cotta pots, with a loop of ribbon hanging out the drainage hole in the bottom for a hanger, so they'd come out looking like bells, but I didn't have any pots I could devote to this purpose so I just glopped the mixture into a greased muffin tin.  I rolled small pieces of aluminum foil around the base of a marker and stuck them in the middle of each muffin in hopes that I'd end up with a hole to put the ribbon through.  Then I baked them at 325 degrees.  I intended to bake them for 15 minutes and then check to see how they were doing, but someone forgot to set a timer, so I really have no idea how long they baked.  Then I removed them from the pan, poked the same marker back through the aluminum tubes to open up the hole and remove the foil, and threaded a piece of shiny pink ribbon through for hanging.


Pinecone Birdfeeder
Any kid who ever went to camp has probably done this one--tie a length of string to a pine cone for hanging, spread peanut butter on the cone, and roll in birdseed.  We did a little bit of a variation on this by drizzling honey on the pine cone instead of using peanut butter.


Vegan Birdseed Balls
A couple of years ago, I made homemade bird suet using lard, and I still remember that yucky stink, so when planning our bird treat tree I decided to try this vegan "suet" treat.  Melt together 1 c. vegetable shortening and 1 c. peanut butter (natural varieties are best for the birds).  Then stir in 3 c. cornmeal and 1/2 c. flour.  Allow to cool--we put ours in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Roll the mixture into balls (I shaped mine around knotted pieces of ribbon so I'd have a hanger), and roll the balls in birdseed.  Freeze until firm.  If you're not going to use all of yours right away, these can be stored in the freezer.
In addition to the bird treats on our tree, we also provided some nesting material.  I've seen people put nesting material in the net bags that oranges or onions from the grocery store come in, but we decided to forgo the bag and just hang yarn, strips of fabric, and ribbons directly on the tree.  I'm excited to see if any bits of color show up in nests around here this spring.

On Monday, hopefully we'll get around to making some binoculars out of (you guessed it!) toilet paper tubes, and then we'll be all set to watch our feathered friends enjoy their delicious treats! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beautiful

I love the song Beautiful by MercyMe, and today it seemed like every time I turned around either Beautiful by MercyMe or You Are More by Tenth Avenue North was playing on the radio.  This is a good thing, because today, and every day, I need to be reminded that despite what the voices in my head may claim, I am beautiful, not because of anything that I am or anything that I do, but just because God treasures me and claims me as His own.  The words of this song speak straight to my heart.  Maybe you need a reminder today, too?
* * * * * * * * * * *
Days will come when you don't have the strength
And all you hear is you're not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart
They'd see too much

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

Praying that you have the heart to fight
Cuz you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long
But they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You're the one He madly loves
Enough to die!

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
In His eyes

You're beautiful!
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful!
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful!
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful!
You are treasured
You are sacred
You are His


**Reminder: if you read my blog via email or facebook, you will need to visit my blog (http://bluefield5.blogspot.com/) to view the video**

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Free MP3 download for Valentine's Day

Hi friends!  I just wanted to let you know about this great deal through Amazon.com.  Through Valentine's Day (that's tomorrow, just in case you don't have elementary aged-kids to remind you), you can give a free MP3 download to a friend or loved one.  Just follow this link, and search for a song you'd like to give.  Choose "give song as a gift," and check out, using promo code: VDAYMP3S.  There's a limit of one free download per Amazon account.

Not sure what to give?  May I suggest Beautiful by MercyMe or I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin?


P.S. If you order through any of the links in this email, I will get a small (like 4 cents) commission.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pinewood Derby

Today was Code-man's last Pinewood Derby as a Cub Scout.  In one week, he'll be crossing over (or whatever it is they do) to Boy Scouts.  To prepare, on Friday Bubby and I cooked up a storm...well, not quite a storm, but our house was smelling pretty yummy.  First, we made chocolate chip cookie bars.  Then, I decided to use up some cereal (that I got for free) that nobody in our house seems to like, and some marshmallows that had turned into a sticky glob because their bag didn't get closed tightly this summer, into Kashi Go Lean Crispy treats (shhh...don't tell anyone I used leftovers).
I decided to mold them into heart shapes, since love is in the air around here.  When the chocolate chip cookie bars came out of the oven, I put in some brownies in a jelly roll pan.  The jelly roll pan was so they'd be thin enough to cut into heart shapes with a cookie cutter--I'm a sucker for heart-shaped baked goodies.

Bubby licked the bowls.  As you can see, he took his job quite seriously--he's even double-fisting to make sure the job gets done right.  I also cooked and seasoned 8 pounds of taco meat.  That was interesting.

The race was pretty exciting.  My boy Code-man took first in quite a few of his races (11 out of 14, my Hubby, who was playing announcer, tells me).  Logo came in second quite a bit, and first in his last race.
Here's the start of one race when they raced against each other--Code-man's car is the black one in lane 1, and Logo's is the green and yellow one with a G on the side in lane 2 (there were quite a few with that particular color scheme this year).  I think that's Code-man's best friend's car in lane 3.  I think in this race Code-man and Logo finished 1 and 2.

Here are all the boys milling around waiting for all of the flashes to stop.  They are very good at milling around, so good, in fact, that about 40 parents and grandparents wanted to each take multiple pictures of them doing it.  Logo is in the front row, the 4th boy from the left, with the yellow neckerchief, and Code-man is behind and to the right of him.

Logo got a 10th place trophy.  Yay, Logo!  Every boy in his den placed in the top 10, and the Wolves won 1st and 2nd place--they dominated!  Way to go, Wolves!  Code-man came in 3rd, plus his car was voted "most original design" by a panel of independent grandparents--not a bad way to end his Pinewood Derby career.  Code-man's 2nd year Webelos den also had 4 members in the top 10.  Way to go, Webelos!

My Derby boys :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to make a 6-sided paper snowflake

Did you know that every snowflake is unique, and that every snowflake has 6 sides or points?  It's true.  Because of the molecular structure and properties of water, snowflakes always form with 6 points or sides.  Making paper snowflakes is a winter-time favorite for many, young and old, but it always surprises me that people don't seem to care that their snowflakes are anatomically incorrect.  I think I've only ever seen one person (besides me and my mom, who taught me) who made 6 sided snowflakes.  One!  Everyone else in the entire world is wrong!

Well, that has got to stop.  So here, for your edification, is my illustrated tutorial: How to make a 6-sided paper snowflake.

1. Begin with a square of paper.  It doesn't matter what size, as long as it's square.  To easily make a square from a rectangular piece of paper, fold one corner down until it touches the other side.  You will have something that looks like this: 

Then cut off the rectangle of paper at the bottom, so you end up with a folded triangle.

2.  Fold the paper in half.  I think my mom would fold so that it formed a rectangle (like on the right), but since I'm usually folding my paper in a triangular shape to make a square first, I just leave mine folded in a triangle shape.

3. Fold in half again, crease, then unfold so that you're back to your rectangle or triangle shape.

4.  Here's where it gets a little tricky, but once you get the idea, it's easy.  Fold each of the bottom corners in and up, folding the paper in thirds--the bottom point should end up on your creased center line--like this:

You'll have kind of a cone shape (the angle will be 60 degrees--that's for you, Chip).

5.  Fold in half, along your fold line (the one you folded, then unfolded in step 3).  If you fold away from yourself, you'll be able to see where to cut in the next step more easily.
Do you see the line there?  That's where you're going to cut.

6.  Find the corners and cut straight across, cutting the corners off. 
The one on the bottom has already been cut; I drew a line on the top one so it would be easier to see where to cut.

7.  Cut shapes out of each of the folded sides--at this time of year I've been doing a lot of hearts.  You can also cut a curlicue or other shape into the top.  I've found that the more you cut out, the better the snowflake looks--just make sure you don't cut away all of either of the folded sides.  If you want a hole in the center of your snowflake, cut off the bottom tip of your triangle.  If your snowflake is too thick to cut through, unfold one fold so you're back to step 4, sorta.

8.  Unfold, and enjoy your beautiful snowy creations, inside where it's warm :)  For extra sparkle, decorate with glue and glitter, or, if you want to get fancy, glitter glue.
Aren't they lovely?
I just love the view from our dining room windows!

Just in case you'd like to read more about making paper snowflakes...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Flops

Did you know that Jelly Belly beans that are less than perfect are called Belly Flops?  Isn't that cute?  They taste just as good and are less expensive than the Jelly Belly beans that do make the cut.  That just illustrates how sometimes mistakes can be a wonderful thing.

Based on your previous experience with my blog, you may have gotten the impression that all of our little projects always go exactly as expected and turn out perfectly--not so--we are full of mistakes over here, and we are definitely not afraid to fail!  I just thought I'd highlight two of our recent "flops."
For years I've heard about people melting their old, broken crayons down to make fun new crayons, and I've wanted to try making some, too.  But I've been reluctant, mostly because I was afraid the crayons would stick in my pan and/or ruin it.  A few weeks ago, my crafting hero, Valerie, posted about making Easy Crazy Crayon Party Favors over at her blog: Frugal Family Fun Blog.  She assured me that the crayons would pop right out of the pan once they were cool...and I believed her.  So we decided to make our own cute, multi-colored, heart-shaped crayons.

First we gathered up all of our broken crayons and took the paper off.  Next the girls sorted the crayons into color groups, and we broke the crayons into my heart-shaped mini-muffin tin.  We used different shades of 2 or 3 different colors per well.

Next, we placed the tin in the oven, which was pre-heated to 250, until the crayons were melty--about 10 minutes. I carefully took the muffin tin out of the oven and allowed it to cool.  And that's when things started to go terribly wrong. 

My crayons did not pop right out of the pan.  Well three of them did, but the others were stubbornly stuck.  I pounded.  I flexed.  A few more came out.  I ran hot water over the back of the pan...a few more came out, but, of course, they were melty so they stained the sink (Hubby thought it was a diabolical plot on my part to get him to install a new sink, since I'm unhappy with the way ours picks up stains without us even trying too hard)...and there were still a few stuck in my poor little pan.  I put it in the freezer, then repeated my pounding and flexing routine.  A few more popped out, and one broke.  Ugh! 

By this time, I was beyond frustrated, and I had three 3 year olds telling me "I'm hungry," over and over again, even though I calmly explained to them over and over again that I would make them lunch as soon as I got the darn crayons out of the darn pan.  I swear I tripped over one of those kids every time I turned around, and there was still one more crayon stubbornly stuck in the pan.  Back to the sink to run more hot water...even if I had to melt that whole crayon back down and send it down the garbage disposal into the septic tank, it was going to come out of that pan! 

Finally, success!  My heart-shaped mini-muffin pan appears to be permanently stained (I'm OK with this, because the muffins I made in it never came out looking very heart-shaped anyway), but the kids did have a great time coloring with their new crazy-heart crayons.


 In all fairness to my crafting hero Valerie, if I had had a pan like hers, I'm sure my crayons would have popped right out, too.  How can I be so sure?  Because we had some extra broken crayons, and I put them in my regular mini-muffin tin, which has a Teflon non-stick coating, to melt--those crayons really did pop right out, with no staining--I didn't even have to bang.  I barely had to turn the pan over.

Have you ever noticed that once your day starts to go downhill, it keeps going down faster and faster?  This is because of the law of gravity.  I know this because I've taken a lot of physics classes, and that's one of the things they teach you about in physics classes.
On that same day, I decided it would be fun to make these cute little string hearts that I found in my February issue of Family Fun magazine.  I even thought it would be fun to make a whole bunch of them to hang on the little pine tree that I shoved in a pot on our porch before Christmas, because I've wanted a "porch pine" for a few years now, but am too cheap to buy an actual porch pine.  Yes, it's still there (because it's frozen in place--it's been a little cold over here). 
I was wrong.  It was so far away from being fun.  Well, it started out OK.  I taped rulers to the table so the kids would know about how long to cut the yarn, and it was great fun for them to use the scissors.  I think they also got a kick out of the independence of being able to cut the strings to length all by themselves.  While they were cutting, I made the glue.  It did not go well.  It was liquid, liquid, liquid...and then all of a sudden it was this huge glop of glueyness.  This should have been my first clue. 

I added a bunch more water to the glue to make it less of a lump and more of a liquid, but the project was doomed from the start.  The girls were good sports--each of them did about half of their hearts before deciding the whole thing was just too sticky and messy for them--but Bubby flat out refused to even try his.

I finished the girls' hearts, then made one for Bubby, but by then even I was ready to admit that this had been not one of my best ideas ever.  I saved the extra cut yarn, thinking that maybe I would still make half a dozen small ones to hang on my tree, but I think that yarn is destined to become nesting material for my bird friends...and my poor little Christmas tree is destined to remain Christmasy, frozen in place on the front porch until it thaws (maybe we can dye some blown eggs for it in the spring).

So, as you can see, we're not perfect: in fact, I like to refer to myself as "imperfect on purpose."  But we do have a lot of fun, even so.


Why we're here

Last night one of the anchors on the news program I was watching interviewed two women who made a short film about why people live in the upper midwest.  Apparently, people who don't live here believe that the climate is extreme, and can't imagine why anyone would actually choose to live here.  Really, people, it's not that bad--just dress for the weather and you'll be fine, or as the weather person on that station says, "embrace the forecast."  I, personally, cannot imagine why anyone would choose to live somewhere hot and humid--yuck!  And you know, nobody appreciates the change of seasons more than upper midwesterners.

This put me in mind of a friend of mine from college, Squirrel.  We went to school in the upper peninsula of Michigan, where the average annual snowfall is 200 inches, but it doesn't really get very cold.  He used to walk to class wearing hiking boots, jeans, and a flannel with the sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows.  No coat; no gloves.  I think he might have occasionally worn a hat.  I know this because he would walk me home when I had evening classes.  I used to ask him how he could do that: wasn't he cold (me, who wore a sweatshirt plus a windbreaker for my winter gear), and he would just give me this funny look. 

Now, I understand.  Lately I've been running around in a short sleeved T-shirt and a sweater.  Yes, even this morning when the temperature gauge in the 'Burban read -15.  It's really not that cold, especially if you're going from heated building to heated vehicle or back to heated building, and it's so much nicer to not have to deal with a heavy winter coat when I'm inside buildings.  I guess it's all what you're used to.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Building a fort

Building a fort out of blankets in the living room is a childhood rite of passage.  If, for some reason, you have survived to adulthood without having done so at least once, you should definitely build a fort in your living room without delay.
I didn't crop out the top of the photo (and made it larger than usual) so the relatives could have fun picking out their pictures on display (hint: Bluefields are on the left; Sheppys are on the right).  You can see our cute little snowman and penguin on the shelf as well.  Oh, and the trees y'all gave me for Christmas last year are on the window ledge--love 'em--thank you!
A few hints and tips I've learned over the years:
  • If you happen to have a dining table that has legs at the corners instead of underneath (like Chip & Bbil, and Shep & Buckwheat have), save yourself some aggravation and use the bottom side of the table as the roof of your fort--if the table's not big enough for you, use chairs to expand the fort.  If not, use any tall furniture you happen to have for supports--I use our dining chairs and living room furniture.
  • I've always used blankets for my forts, but flat sheets are lighter, and stay in place a little better than blankets.
  • I use masking tape to secure the sheets or blankets in place.
  • Once you've made the main structure, use more sheets or blankets to expand and/or cover the sides--the more enclosed your fort is, the more fun it is.  I use our throw blankets for this.
  • Don't forget to add pillows and blankets to the floor of your fort to make it more cozy--we had almost every pillow in the house in ours--and that's quite a few pillows :)
Here's Pal arranging about 1/3 of the pillows that eventually ended up in our fort (and Bubby telling me to make the camera not flash...)
Building a fort is such a great way to encourage children's imaginations.  In just the first 45 minutes of our fort's all-day life span, ours transformed from cave to tent to tiger cage, to zoo to parking garage to race track, to pillow fight arena to theater.  What a fun and creative way to spend a cold day inside!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God Loves Me More Than That!

How much love does God have for me?  More than the letters between A and Z.  More than the bumbles in a bumble bee.  God loves me more than that!
God Loves Me More Than That (Dandilion Rhymes)

I recently received a copy of God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by David Hohn.  This sweet and simple book helps children understand how much God loves them by asking and answering just how big--how high, how deep, how wide--God's love is.  I love the concept of this book--the questions are ones I can imagine my own children asking, and the answers are wonderfully concrete: God's love is "higher than the moon in a starless sky," and "louder than the cheering of a football crowd," and "deeper than a treasure chest beneath the sea."  These are comparisons my kids can relate to.  The repetition of the question/answer format really emphasizes the message that God's love is much more than we can ever imagine, and the simple drawings complement the text beautifully.  This book would make a delightful addition to a young child's bedtime routine.  The one thing I didn't like about the book was the rhymes--I love rhyming books, but with this one I just couldn't get into a good read-aloud rhythm--the rhymes seemed forced to me. 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  This review contains my honest opinions.




Sunday, February 6, 2011

Don't Panic!

I've been freezer cooking since about a month and a half before Code-man was born over 10 years ago.  Every time I made a meal for supper that could be easily frozen, I would double or triple the recipe and put the extras in the freezer.  The idea was that I would have lots of ready-to-go meals in the freezer when we were in the fog of those first few weeks of parenthood.  It worked.  I don't think I cooked for the first 6 weeks of Code-man's life, which was literally a life-saver: I think we would have starved otherwise.

Over the years, I've continued to double and triple recipes to stash in the freezer, but my selection of go-to freezer meal recipes has diminished.  It's become much more difficult to find meals that all five of our family members will eat, and I don't see the point in cooking something unless someone is going to eat it.

So I was interested when my sis mentioned a cookbook that she wanted to take a look at, Don't Panic--Dinner's in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead.  In this cookbook, there are recipes for appetizers and beverages, breads and muffins, soups, poultry, beef and pork, pasta and more, desserts, brunch items, and side dishes, as well as hints and tips about the "don't panic" method of cooking.  Chip and I both requested it through our libraries' inter-library loan programs and were excited to try some of the recipes and tips. 

The other day Chip made Sour Cream Muffins (just because she was stuck in the house and had all the ingredients on hand), and was surprised at how good they tasted--she wasn't so sure about the addition of sour cream to the batter, but Chip said they were moist and delicious.

Last night I made Chicken Breasts in Phyllo.  Here's the recipe:

1.5 c. mayonnaise
1 c. green onion, chopped
1/3 c. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced (I always use my garlic press to quickly and easily mince garlic)
2 t. dry tarragon
12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
salt & pepper to taste
24 sheets phyllo dough (this can be found in the freezer or refrigerated section of most grocery stores)
1.5 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

On cooking day:
Combine first 5 ingredients to make sauce.  Lightly sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Place 2 sheets of phyllo* on working surface.  Quickly brush each sheet with melted butter (about 2 t.) and stack on top of each other.  Spread about 1.5 T of sauce on each side of chicken.  Place breast in one corner of buttered phyllo sheets.  Fold corner over breast, then fold sides over, and roll breast up in the sheets to form a package.**  Place in ungreased baking dish.  Repeat with remaining chicken breasts and phyllo sheets.  Brush packets with remaining butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Wrap each chicken packet in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and freeze.

Serving day instructions:
Thaw completely before baking.  Bake at 375 degrees in ungreased baking dish for 45-50 minutes or until golden.  Serve immediately.

Substitution:
Cream cheese may be used in place of mayonnaise.

* It is really hard to lift up and move the phyllo after it's been buttered (it's paper-thin), so I buttered one piece, put the other piece on top, then buttered the top piece.  Remember to keep the rest of the phyllo covered while you're working so it doesn't dry out.
** This method of folding did not work for me, so I just placed the chicken near one of the short sides instead of in the corner, folded it over, then folded in the sides, and rolled to make a package.

The recipe claims to make 12 servings, but I made 19 packets using 6 pounds of chicken breasts.  I don't know if you've noticed, but chicken breasts these days are just huge, so I cut the breasts into serving size portions (one serving of meat or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards).  I had enough sauce, phyllo, and butter to have made an additional 3 or 4 packets, but I didn't have any more thawed chicken, so I stopped.

As I was wrapping, I mentioned to Hubby, "I sure hope we like these, because we're going end up with a lot of them!"  Oh, it was so, so delicious, and they looked pretty impressive, too!  The phyllo was crisp and buttery and the chicken was tender and seasoned perfectly.  In fact, Logo said he liked the chicken better than the crust, which is saying something--he generally prefers grains to proteins.  I was worried about the mayonnaise, because I don't like mayo, and up until my first bite, was second-guessing my decision to not substitute cream cheese, but I cannot imagine these being any better than they were.  These would be perfect to serve at a dinner party with a Caesar salad and steamed veggies.  Mmmmm, yummy!  Now I'm even more excited to try more of the recipes from this book.  Chip told me she thought she was going to buy a copy for herself, and I think I am going to have to do the same :)


Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Someone very special is celebrating a birthday!
It's...
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...someone whose name starts with an E.
It's...
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...someone who talks to inanimate objects.
It's...
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...Elmo! 
Happy Birthday, Elmo!
Oh yeah, and it's ESheppy's birthday, too. 
Happy birthday, ESheppy :)
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