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


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


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…)

Picture & recipe from Life, Love, & Sugar.

iPhone apps for kids that don’t suck


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.

Pure genius: Kids helping with chores


Since our kids are over that infant/toddler-must-be-watched-at-all-times phase, we’ve made a habit of keeping toys upstairs, for the most part. Of course, during the day the kids wander downstairs with toys or books, to make a hideout fort under the dining room table or just because they don’t want to let something out of their sight while doing something else. So at the end of they we have them make sure all their toys are taken back upstairs – and as you can imagine, they often miss a few.

It’s been a constant hassle – sweeping up stray legos, stepping on matchbox cars (or vice versa). So we had this great idea that instead of returning their toys to their rooms when we find them, we’ll put them in a clear container that they can see but not touch.

When they want something back, they have to buy it back with a task from the buy-back jar. Here’s our list of tasks – some are easier than others.

Practice karate for 20 minutes
Play outside for 20 minutes
Make your bed
Fold laundry
Vacuum 1 room
Sweep the kitchen
Clean up all the toys in your room
Find toys and books downstairs and put them away
Sweep the hallway
Clean downstairs surfaces (light switches, door handles, window sills) with a wet wipe
Clean the bathroom counter (upstairs) with a wet wipe
Clean one toilet
Sharpen pencils
Clean up someone else’s room
Read a book to Bruiser
Do 20 minutes on IXL (math practice website)

A couple of things to note: we keep non-toxic Seventh Generation all purpose wipes on hand, so I’m not putting a bleach- or ammonia- based cloth in their hands. Bruiser can’t do quite all of these, but he can do most. I put a little red dot on all the things he can do, so when he needs a task I make sure I pull out one with a red dot.

Will you hang up with us?


Aren’t kids awesome? I thought I’d share a few of the priceless treasures we’ve heard lately.

Dropping the kids off at Sunday School Bean said “Mama, will you hang up with us?” (hang out, I think is what she meant.)

Little Man, singing worship songs loud in the backseat of the minivan, “Hosanna, Hosanna… Be exhausted O Lord our God…”

Little Man, “if you eat too much, you become a rainbow.”

When I woke Bruiser up and asked him if he slept good (at age 2), “No mama, I slep well.” All right, mini grammar coach…

Why I love PetSmart


It’s not just the fun kiddos have looking at fish and small animals at the ‘suburban zoo’ – it’s the people.

For instance, yesterday. We went into PetSmart and a lovely woman asked if we’d like help. Bean piped up and said, “Why, yes, we would!” And much to my surprise, she very politely asked the woman if they carry any leprechaun traps.

Now, just any saleswoman might snicker, look away, or tell my kid she’s very sorry, but that isn’t the type of pet they cater to in this store. But she wasn’t just any saleswoman. She said to my Bean, “Sure we do. We keep them right over here in this aisle. Follow me please!” And when she brought us to the bird aisle where there were all sorts of cages, she looked Bean straight in the eye and offered to help us choose the right kind of leprechaun trap if we’d like her help.

Great people, great store.

Train the masses!


Problem #1: Unemployment is skyrocketing in the US and has been for the last year and a half.

Problem #2: Companies can find cheaper labor overseas, so they outsource a lot of work that used to be done by Americans, leaving the unemployed with the need to find another way to fit into the labor pool.

Problem #3: A lot of the existing jobs require certifications that are expensive to obtain, but not time-intensive.

My Solution: Why don’t Cisco, Microsoft, Six Sigma and some of the other credentialing agencies partner with state departments of labor to create a program in which the unemployed pay a small fee to enroll in a credentialing course? Even if the department of labor covers a couple hundred dollars of the cost, they’ll pay fewer months of unemployment benefits, saving money in the end.  Their expenditure might even be billable to the participant once he or she gains employment.

What the DOL gets out of it: Lowered unemployment statewide, saving money and resources.

What the unemployed participant gets out of it: Highly recognized credential that makes him or her much more marketable in the job field.

What Cisco and/or Six Sigma (and others) get out of it: Stellar PR for responding to the needs of the job market, and a more highly qualified job pool with greater diversity of skills.