30 days of Pinterest Cooking: Day 2 – Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

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Mexican. For me it’s comfort food. For the kids it’s torture. For hubbs, it’s ok as long as there’s no cilantro. So when I saw this pin for lighter chicken enchiladas, I was excited to give it a shot. But on examination, I didn’t have a few of things the recipe called for. Like chipotles. Or enchilada sauce to substitute. So I winged it, cause that’s how I roll.

First off, I wouldn’t be home when the kids ate, so that means the veggie had to be cooked into the dish – otherwise there would be no veggie. So when I put the chicken in the pan to simmer/steam, I added a couple of diced carrots, sliced celery, and diced onions. When the chicken was cooked I pulled all of that out with a slotted spoon and into a mixing bowl. I reserved the water in the pan (now chicken broth) and used that as a base for my enchilada sauce. Adding flour, tomato paste, cumin, salt, and chili powder, I kept mixing until I got the flavor right.

To assemble my enchiladas, I dipped each tortilla into my pan of sauce to coat it, transferred it to a cookie sheet, added a scoop of shredded chicken and veggies, a light sprinkling of cheddar cheese, rolled it up tight, and put it seam side down in my casserole dish. One after the other till they were all lined up and pretty. Poured the remainder of the sauce over them, and then covered it all with a layer of Mexican blend cheese.

350º for half an hour, and perfect! The kids hated it, as I expected they would. Hubbs loved it. I thought it was a pretty good substitute for real Mexican. I would have preferred it with the chipotles and a little more kick, but then I would have been the only one happy.

All in all, this is darn good method for putting enchiladas together. I may not have exactly followed the recipe, but boiling/steaming the chicken and then shredding it – perfect texture and flavor. We have a keeper.

Lighter chicken enchiladas

30 days of Pinterest cooking: Day 1 – Reese’s cookie cake

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Here we go, folks. A month-long challenge to myself to try all those recipes I’ve been pinning for so long. Today happens to be Friday, which is dessert night in our house. So dessert seems like a great place to start. 1 recipe a day – surely I can handle that. Right?

Today I thought my youngest would want to help me in the kitchen, since cookie cakes are his favorite, and since he loves helping in the kitchen. So we got started. (I should have taken pictures throughout the process, don’t you think?) Well, it’s just day 1. There’s a learning curve.

To start with, I chose Lindsay’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Cake. Cookie cake. Peanut butter and chocolate. What’s not to love, right?

Hmmm… My first clue that this wouldn’t end up as a favorite was that the dough was really dry and crumbly. I imagine it has a lot to do with the type of peanut butter you use. When it was time to press it into the cake pan I covered it with parchment paper and used another cake pan to press it down. That gave me a nice, evenly pressed dough. When I tasted what was left in the mixing bowl it left something to be desired. But I thought the icing would turn out to be a big help.

And so I made the icing. Again, it left something to be desired. It was a little too sweet, and didn’t have the rich chocolate flavor I was hoping for. By the time I had the cake all iced and topped with chopped Reese’s, it was gorgeous! In the end, the kids absolutely loved it. Hubbs loved it. I thought it was just ho-hum. And since it involved 2 rounds of mixer use with cleaning in between, it wasn’t an easy hassle-free recipe that I’d be likely to try again. Sorry, cookie cake. I’m just not that into you.  (That said, it certainly was a crowd-pleaser to everyone else. And, I left out the chocolate syrup drizzle…)

http://www.lifeloveandsugar.com/2014/01/23/reeses-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookie-cake/

Picture & recipe from Life, Love, & Sugar. http://www.lifeloveandsugar.com

Master bedroom on a budget!

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I wish I’d taken a before picture to show how hideous the master bedroom was. But for the past 2 years (since we moved into this house) I’ve made sure no pictures were taken in that room, because it was so horrid. So, there are no pictures of the sadly neglected master bedroom. But I do have pictures (iPhone pictures, I’m afraid, in low light) of the newly redecorated bedroom! Check it out:

IMG_2659

Other than the dresser, which hubbs splurged on (Ikea, $249, I think), the rest of the room was my thrift shopping.

5′ x 8′ rug: $49 at Old Time Pottery

Comforter with 2 matching shams: $13 at Salvation Army

2 coordinating shams: $0.79 at Value Village (thrift)

Coordinating throw pillow: $1.49 at Park Avenue Thrift

Remnant upholstery fabric for headboard: $4.50 at Old Time Pottery (and I have enough for valences! – later )

Foam mattress topper for headboard: found it in the basement – used to be on one of the kids’ beds.

Button covering kit for headbard tufting: $8.00 at Hancock Fabric

Quote above the headboard: $14.99 at Old Time Pottery

Total: $78.77, plus hubby’s dresser

IMG_2658

I no longer cringe walking into my room. I think it’ll need some color on the walls at some point, and I’ll install a closet organizing system at some point. But for now, I’m pretty happy with my <$80 redecoration!

DIY! Owl applique

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What does one do when crazy busy with accelerated nursing classes, 3 kids, a job, and a hubby who’s out of town for military service? Applique an owl (my school mascot) onto a backpack! Yes, I think we refer to that as escapism, avoidance, procrastination, or some similar phenomenon. Other examples might be building a headboard from scratch (which I am actually also doing), painting the dining room (hope to do next week), knitting scarves for my kids that they won’t wear (done), and churning my own butter (I’d have to be really, intensely stressed and slightly insane to consider that one…).

Anyhow, everyone in the nursing program at my school is required to buy a black backpack filled with nursing lab supplies – gauze, saline solution, syringes, catheters, etc… So, you have 150+ people in the same classes carrying the same bag. I needed something to make mine stand out. (And I needed a justifiable reason to not make my head spin with pathophysiology).

So, my black backpack got ‘pimped’ with my own DIY owl applique! I used a template for the owl, picked up coordinating fat quarters in black and yellow (my school colors) from Hancock Fabric, and used a tutorial on embroidery stitches to master the blanket stitch around the edges of each layer. I pulled some similar-ish buttons out of my giant bowl-o-buttons for the eyes, and finished the whole thing in an afternoon today. While not studying.

If I’d been planning ahead, I would have taken step by step pictures. But I wasn’t planning ahead – just procrastinating. And so you only get a couple shots (below) of the final product. I can tell you what I did though. I used the template as a pattern to cut out the pieces to make the owl. Then I used Hollywood Fashion Tape to secure the belly and eye pieces to the main owl cutout. I blanket stitched those into place with embroidery thread. Then I used the same method to stitch all of that to the backpack. Added the wings (with the fashion tape, then blanket stitch), and finished by sewing on the button eyes. I probably should have sewn those on with black threat (to look like pupils) or small black buttons, but as mentioned earlier, the planning ahead phase wasn’t part of my process. I’m thinking about using an embroider stitch with contrasting fabric to give “Lucky” a stethoscope…

Here are 2 pics of the ever-so-cute backpack:

Owl applique backpack 2

Isn’t it cute? My kids have named the owl Lucky. Maybe he’ll bring me luck when it’s exam time?

Owl applique backpackNow, if you’ll excuse me, I have about 3 gagillion pages to read and commit to memory. (Seeing as how I was too busy to do that earlier in the day…)

A place for everything…

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And today, we have Prednisone project #2 – cleaning the boys’ room! You see, we had a bad case of post-Christmas explosion: IMG_2072

 

Toys everywhere. Nothing had a home. The truth is, very few things had found a home even before Christmas, but once all the new Christmas stuff arrived, the situation was, well, disastrous. As you can see. So, hubbs and I sent the boys downstairs to play. See, when there aren’t any children around we can easily dump things into the trash… Sneaky? Perhaps. But efficient. In the end, there were 2 large bags of trash and 3 boxes for Goodwill.

IMG_2073Now, all their toys have their own home. Everything is put away, and most of it is labeled. Because I love labels. We’ll see how long things stay put away, but for now, the post-Christmas explosion has been dealt with.

 

Whitewashed fireplace: disaster and fix

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Bronchitis for the few weeks leading up to Christmas can be a real downer – that is, unless your doc prescribes you an upper! Sleepless nights and bounding energy have turned me into the energizer bunny. Browsing around Pinterest I found some awesome pictures of whitewashed fireplaces and decided to make that my Prednisone Project #1. Here’s the inspiration:

Whitewashed Fireplace from theyellowcapecod.com

To start with, this was my fireplace:

Red brick

Plenty of character, but with the nice hardwoods and the large oak built-ins on the wall, it made the room look dark and dingy. So, I followed the instructions from The Yellow Cape Cod, mixing my paint with water, and brushing on. But, seeing as how the prednisone had me going a mile a minute, I didn’t take time to do it slowly and check my progress. So I ended up with a white fireplace. Much whiter than I wanted. Boo.

White fireplace

So, back to Pinterest I went. How do you un-whitewash a fireplace? Pinterest was no help. Neither was google or a handful of do it yourself sites. The best advice I found was to repaint it another color. Yikes! Could I really have ruined my fireplace? A little more research, and I found that I could pick up some denatured alcohol or paint stripper at the hardware store and remove some of the paint. And, a bottle of Motsenbocker LiftOff and some old towels did the trick. Spray on, leave for 1 minute, then rub with a towel. Here’s the finished fireplace:

IMG_2050The natural patina of the brick is back, but the lighter finish really brightens the room. I may go back over it in a few places with the LiftOff to bring out the natural brick tones just a bit more, but for now, I’m quite happy with it.

iPhone apps for kids that don’t suck

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There’s this great thing about having a smart phone (or tablet) tucked away – at the doctors office and all sorts of other places around town where we sit around waiting I have a way to entertain my kids with ease. The key is, apps. Fun, educational apps. Here are my faves (some are paid, but worth it, others are free).

Dragon Box

Dragon Box: Aimed for ages 8 and up, my 4 and 6 year olds love it too. It’s an intuitive game that separates the screen in half, and the goal is to isolate the “dragon box” on one half of the screen. But whatever you do to one half, you have to do to the other half of the screen too. It teaches algebra skills without any numbers! That’s right – they’re getting ready for algebra and they don’t even know it!

Cash Cow: cool little game with neat cartoony graphics – teaches math and money skills

Presidents vs. Aliens: Bean and I compete with each other in this one, and I’m afraid to say her presidential trivia skills beat mine. Answering questions correctly gives you the opportunity to shoot aliens out of the sky. Cool? Yes.

Mathmateer: Kids get to build a rocket and then use it doing basic math. You can set the level and skills (number recognition, addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.). Super fun.

Stack the States: By the same developer as Presidents vs. Aliens, this one uses trivia about the US states. There’s another version about countries in the world that’s cool too.