Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Freezer Meal: Stuffed Green Peppers with Chorizo

Don't you get tired of having to prepare meals from scratch EVERYDAY? I do... So my new goal is to pick a couple meals a week that I can cook some for dinner and freeze some for a later date. This way, if I don't feel like cooking for hours, want to save some money and skip the drive thru, I can pop something in the oven from my freezer! 

This week I started with some Stuffed Green Peppers. There are a million recipes and variations out there, but like always, I try to use what I have in my pantry so I don't have to buy a bunch of groceries. So my variation doesn't include tomato sauce and adds some chorizo for an added kick of flavor. The hubby loved these things and was bummed that I didn't cook more of them.. And to my surprise, the kids liked them too (even my one daughter who hates rice!). Success.

(Makes 16 Stuffed Peppers)

Ingredients

  • 8 bell peppers
  • 1 lb pork sausage
  • 1/2 lb chorizo
  • 6oz of Minute Rice Multi-Grain Medley (contains quinoa, brown rice, barley, oats, wheat & rye) 
  • 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes with garlic & onion
  • 11oz can of mexicorn
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of shredded mexican cheese
Directions


Cook the pork sausage & chorizo on medium-high heat in a skillet until browned. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the directions on the box.


While the sausage & rice are cooking, take out the seeds of the peppers, slice them in half and place to the side.


Once the meat is cooked thoroughly, drain it. Then, place the meat back into the skillet along with the corn and tomatoes. Mix.


When the rice is cooked, drain and then add the rice to the skillet with the meat mixture. Mix.


 Then, fill the pepper halves with the meat mixture.


Top each pepper with about 1/2 tablespoon of the shredded cheese

For Dinner That Night.. Place the desired number of assembled peppers in a shallow baking dish. Fill with enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until peppers are tender and cheese is melted.




To Freeze.. Put uncooked assembled peppers on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, wrap them individually in saran wrap and place in pan or large Ziploc bag in freezer until ready to eat. To heat, thaw completely and cook according to directions above.



Make some to eat now and freeze some for later... 





Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is Being Healthy Really That Important?


Growing up, being active and healthy was always a huge part of our family. We were encouraged to go outside and only allowed one hour of television a day- even in the summers. And the only snack we got was one a day out of a "snack drawer." We always had balanced meals and rarely had sweets. As a small kid, I hated it. But as an adult looking back, I am thankful that my parents set those rules. I was not only physically and mentally healthy, but it gave me confidence in myself. 

So naturally, as a parent, I am going to encourage those same types of things. But before I do, I need to make sure my life lines up with my words. I can't tell my kids they need to eat their vegetables so they can be healthy while I chow down a cheeseburger. I also can't tell them to go play outside because its good for them if they never see me leave the couch. And when my girls are teenagers and start battling insecurities, I can't tell them to be confident in who they are if I am constantly calling myself fat. 

I'll be the first one to say, it is very easy to justify why you don't eat or live a certain way when you have kids... I've heard myself say all kinds of excuses... 


"The kids were frustrating today. I'd rather watch the Bachelor and wind down then go work out."... 

"I was in a hurry so I grabbed us cheeseburgers instead of making that chicken salad sandwich I had planned."... 

"I have kids. I don't have the liberty to go to the gym whenever I want"...

"Fresh produce is a lot more expensive than processed foods"... 

"I'd rather skip a meal than give up my daily Starbucks"...



So if it is so hard and inconvenient to be healthy, why do it?

For You.. Personally.. I want to live a long full life and I know that I won't have that if I don't take care of myself. I can't just eat junk and expect to never have health issues. So having that lifelong goal in mind helps push me.

I was telling my friend the other day that I wish I could bottle up how I feel after I run. I'm tired, but I feel SO good physically. It's one of the best feelings. When you start to workout and eat healthy daily, you start to have that feeling more and more- not just after you workout. It becomes such a part of your life that soon eating junk food or going days without working out feels awful enough to deter you from doing it in the first place. Your body does change depending on what you eat and the amount of activity you do. If you eat gross, you'll feel gross. If you eat good, you'll feel good. 

On top of the physical benefits, it benefits you mentally and emotionally. After a good work out, you feel such a sense of accomplishment. You put aside all distractions and justifications and pushed forward to make your life healthier. That is something to be proud of! Like everything else, it is a choice to be healthy or not. 

Let's face it, I may never be in shape like Anna Kournikova or look like Gisele Bundchen, but I can have confidence in the fact that I am trying to be the best version of me that I can and that should be good enough for me. 

For Your Spouse..  If you take care of yourself physically, you will see the benefit in other areas of your life, such as your relationship with your spouse. Your insecurities will decrease and your confidence will increase. As a result, your intimacy level will grow. (You're welcome husbands). And let's be honest, who wants to live with a "Debbie Downer" who constantly talks about how "not great" they are? That person married you. They saw the great in you and were attracted to you physically. Don't undermine their decision to marry you by talking crap about yourself. It's not doing any good (... speaking to myself here... )

For Your Children.. Going back to my first point in this blog: you need to lead by example. If you don't want your kids to be lazy or insecure because they are overweight, you need to show them how to avoid those situations. Or if you just want them to live long healthy lives, give them an example of how to do that. They are products of their environment. What type of health environment are you creating for them?

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”- 3 John 1:2

The Mother of All Baby Books

Have you ever had lifelong goals that lasted... oh... a week? I have. A few actually. But I regret one particular failed attempt: scrapbooking. When I was pregnant, I had every intention of making cute baby books for my kids. I was going to document my pregnancies, their "firsts", everything... And to make it easier, I bought a couple of those pre-made ones that all you did was paste pictures and fill the blanks. But apparently, answering questions like, "What is baby's favorite game to play?" was too much work for me at the time...

So, after years of having piles and piles of artwork, doctors' growth charts, thousands of digital pictures, and random pieces of paper with memories on them, I decided to put my project back into motion. I figured the longer I waited, the harder it was going to be to go "back in time."  (And it didn't help that I was running out of storage room). I thought about filling out the baby books that I had purchased, but I didn't care about some of the sections and they didn't allow room for too many pictures. I didn't want to have to do that AND print a million pictures to make a baby album... So, thanks to my friend Shutterfly, I decided to make an all-encompassing baby book online!




The thing I love about it, is I can put EVERYTHING I have in it. I scanned all the kids' artwork and took pictures of all the "bulky crafts" they did to include in the book. So from pictures to milestones to projects... it is all in one place. 



My goal is to create a book every few years for each kid... So from 0-3 years, Preschool-Pre-K, Kindergarten- Second Grade, and so on..  and never show them. Then, when the kids either graduate from college, get married or have a baby, I plan to present all the books to them. Won't that be neat? I like to think so...



After doing a couple of books I have to say, I'm hooked. I love being able to pick up my computer when I have a free moment and work on them with no mess! It also saves all your projects so even after you printed your finished book, it is still online in case anything ever happened to your book(s). 






So, if you are stuck on what to do with all the kiddos' stuff, I'd start here... Happy Scrapbooking!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Low-Cal Crock-Pot Chicken Chili from Your Pantry

How irritating is it when you get home from a store and realize that you forgot one ingredient for a dish you were going to make? Unfortunately, I do that quite often.. So this week, instead of making a quinoa dish, I had to raid my pantry and improvise..  Have to say, this chicken chili turned out great and is low in calories, cheap, and easy to make! It fed my husband, myself and our three children. Was the perfect amount for us.. And I love that all the ingredients are staples in my house. Will definitely turn to this whenever I need a warm meal on cold days!

Ingredients

  • 3 Boneless Chicken Breasts (trim off fat)
  • 3 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 cup Minced Onion (I like to use dried so I don't have to buy a fresh onion!)
  • 1- 15.5oz can of Whole Kernel Corn (no salt added)
  • 1- 15.5oz can of Light Red Kidney Beans
  • 1- 15.5oz can of Black Beans (low sodium)
  • 1- 15.5oz can of Great Northern Beans
  • 1- 15.5oz can of Diced Tomatoes ("chili ready"... or Rotel works)
  • 2 tsp Garlic (again, I use dry.. always have it in my pantry)
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder (add more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • When serving, you can add some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and/or some cilantro on top for more flavor... (and more calories!)




DIRECTIONS:
Mix all the ingredients (except the chicken) in the crock-pot. Once mixed, put the chicken breasts down into the mixture so they are fully submerged. Turn the crock-pot on high for 3-4 hours. Once cooked, take the chicken breasts out and shred with a couple forks. Put the shredded chicken back into the crock-pot and mix thoroughly. Turn heat down to low and cook for 1-2 more hours. There you have it! 



 Enjoy.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Lego Table: The Perfect Gift for a Toddler Boy




I have two sons, two daughters, four nieces and a nephew ALL five years old or younger. That is a lot of gifts to get throughout the year! And the problem is I feel like I give the same type of gift every occasion... So this year, we got a little more creative with my son and nephew for Christmas. We made Lego Duplo tables.. Well... my husband did... He's so handy!
Anyways, the boys (and their older sisters) loved them! Here's how to make them:

Materials
  • Lego/Lego Duplo building plate (ours was 18"x18")
  • Plywood Panel (same measurements as your building plate with an additional 1-2 inches on each edge)
  • 4 pieces of 2x4 (or 4x4 for a more sturdy table) wood each measuring 18'' in length for the legs (you can adjust to the height of your child)... We got ours in the clearance section of the store!
  • Quarter Round (enough to put on all the edges of the plywood.. top and bottom)
  • Paint
  • Wood glue
  • Small Nails (long enough to go through the quarter round into the plywood)
  • 8-16 Screws (length will depend on thickness of plywood)

Assembly:

First, make pilot holes (which are holes a bit smaller than your screw so the wood won't split) in the plywood corners and in the legs where they will attach (two holes per leg for a 2x2, four holes per leg for a 4x4). Once the holes are made, apply glue to the top of the legs and attach them to the bottom of the plywood panel. Once set, drill the screws into your pilot holes.

Then, apply the quarter round on both the top edges of the plywood panel as well as the bottom using wood glue and then reinforcing with small nails. This gives it the smooth rounded edge look.
(Note: You will have to cut the quarter round at the corners for them to fit together nicely.. This is probably the hardest part). 

Once all assembled, fill any gaps or holes with caulk. As soon as that is dry, sand out any rough edges and then you are ready to paint!



My husband used a few of these colors & a stencil to get the digi camo effect

Once it is all dry, attach the Lego plate with wood glue and you're done!  



Finished Table with 4x4 legs


Wrapped Up Nicely for Our Nephew

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Our Inexpensive Kitchen Makeover

We bought our house in 2008 and I'm pretty sure the kitchen was in its original form with all the original appliances from 1997 when it was built. Needless to say, it has been on my list of house projects for quite some time!!!


Well.. for Christmas, my husband surprised me by saying he was going to renovate our kitchen! 
(Woo hoo!) 

So, let me start off by saying, the only "work" I did was cleaning and organizing the cabinets. All the hard work was left to my husband (who has painted with his dad for about 18+ years) with a little help from my father-in-law (who owns his own painting business) and my dad (who is a master at cutting crown molding)... But he was kind enough to walk me through the process so I could share it with you all!!! So here we go!

DECIDING ON STAIN:
We went with a spray paint toner and lacquer (I was actually really surprised when my husband suggested it. I thought all spray paint was a "no no" if you wanted a nice finish).




















(To get the color right, we took a piece of wood with the same finish as our cabinets and tested it. We ended up picking a couple of shades and layered them)


PREP:
1. Wash all the cabinets and doors thoroughly with a wet rag and/or cleaner

2. If you did not previously have hardware and are going to add some, drill the holes now. It seems like an extra step to add it, just to take it off, but this will help reduce scratches and mess-ups to fresh stain! (We got our hardware at Ikea which was about half the price of what we wanted at Home Depot)

3. Remove all cabinet doors, hinges, hardware and drawers (Also, if the faces of the drawers can be removed easily, take those off as well. This way you can stain the faces without having to mask off the drawers themselves)

4. Mask off the insides of the cabinets (and inside drawers if you cannot take off the faces) and every wall, ceiling and/or floor within 5ft of the cabinets
(Use masking tape for small sections, paper for larger sections and plastic to wall off rooms or very large spaces)

The prepped kitchen and my awesome father-in-law
(who is going to star in DIY Networks' Bath Crashers!)

STAINING:
1. First time you spray, it is going to look splotchy and uneven because it is spray paint. Just try to coat as evenly as possible. You will need to do about 4-6 coats. Allow each coat to dry before applying the next
(The product we used dried very quickly... But to help speed up the process, after you do a coat on the trim of the cabinets, go spray the cabinet doors and drawers. Then do it all over again and again. By the last coat, you will be able to see the smoothness and finished look)



2. Allow everything to completely dry. Once dry, start applying the satin lacquer. This will take about 2-3 coats.
(Unlike the toner, it will take about 2 hours to completely dry in between coats)

3. Once everything is dry, put the hardware on and put your kitchen back together!!!


ADD ONS:
We wanted to add crown molding to give it more of a classy and finished look. We bought pre-cut crown molding that matched the wood of our cabinets to make sure the stain looked the same. These pieces were painted the same time as everything else, but added to the cabinets after everything else.

In the midst of doing everything else, we decided to get stainless steel appliances. I began searching online at all the stores and the different deals going on. We saved over 35% on everything! Heck yes.

We still want to do our counters out of concrete, but will have to wait on those...  (Will blog on that project of course... Stay tuned...)


So for the first time in over five years, I enjoy looking at my kitchen. I actually find myself just staring at it! It did take a few days to complete and cost about $400 for all the materials (stain, hardware, crown molding, etc.), but it was SO worth it. 




... and for dramatic effect, a side-by-side...


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

new beginnings.

New Year's Resolutions.. Not sure if I am for or against them, but my Facebook is now flooded with all different types. And while I appreciate the concept, I just have never understood why you have to wait until January 1st to start changing your life... But, like a wise man once said, "When in Rome..."

So...

My New Year's Resolution for 2014 is to blog more!!! 

I am absolutely horrible at this. It is definitely towards the bottom of my "to do" list. But thanks to a bunch of feedback, I now know that the posts are appreciated so I am going to try and do them more often!  

You all are awesome and I hope that in whatever you choose to do or not do this year, that your life be so full of joy, that you walk around looking like this...