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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Plug it in, head outside. Slow Cooker fajitas!

The world of Pinterest is a good one, although I can see what was once an online place for your favorite things can turn into a bunch of garbage with people being mega-pinners. (If this stuff doesn't make any sense to you, ignore it and head down to the recipe!)
But there are wonderful things to learn from Pinterest, and here is one that I found, tweaked, and instantly found crock pot bliss. The beauty of meals like these is that the ingredients are realistic, simple, and quickly go together. So when you wake up one day and the sun is shining and you just want to head out to enjoy what's there, plug this in and come home, adventure-worn, and walk into a house full of deeeelicious smells.

Very grateful for the original post, here is my take on this "I can't believe this was made in a slow cooker" fajitas...

Slow Cooker Fajitas

1 good sized onion, sliced
3 sweet bell peppers, sliced (those packs of yellow, orange, and red? perfect.)
1 1/2pound chicken breast
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl cumin
1 1/2 Tbl chili powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
hot sauce (we <3 Frank's for everything except doughnuts!)
Fajita toppings (cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.)

Looks rather yucky in the cooker.  Have faith.
In a greased slow cooker, put onion and pepper slices. Lay chicken right on top, pour on broth or water. Sprinkle all of the spices (salt through oregano) all over the chicken.  Cook for 8 hours on low, then shred the chicken with two forks.  Add hot sauce to your taste, a twist of lime if you've got it.  Best to serve it with a slotted spoon so you get the goodies and not to broth.  (Stir some of the broth into a can of refried beans for a taste of homemade!)

Shredded up, it's a big pot of yummy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Waking up is hard to do

I have a rather hokey nightgown that sports a bear with half-open eyes holding a mug.  “Bearly awake before coffee” is what it reads, and it’s been a needling point for my husband, a genuinely morning person.  And by morning person, I mean he can wake up and not stomp around and it doesn’t take him 20 minutes just to be able to function enough to make coffee to be able to drink it without spilling it all over his pajamas.
But I am not so lucky.  I don’t want to be talked to, touched, looked at, or even near anyone except the droning sound of the local news station.
And then, maybe then, I’ll make you breakfast.
Before I was blessed with motherhood, this sort of anti-morning-person phenomenon didn’t bother many people.  My husband knew to keep his distance until the caffeine set in, and things were fine.  Then, having babies in the house throws off the schedule so much that while you may be a morning person, your morning had just been dedicated at 4:30 AM.  Full nights of sleep consist of three hours and you find yourself forgetting how to set your alarm clock because the baby will do a perfectly fine job of waking you up at whichever hour they choose and crave immediate attention.
And this is why, I believe, babies are so absolutely adorable.  If they weren’t, sleepy people like me might not be so kind in the wee hours of the night.
But time goes on and our children grow up and reach that awful stage of not being able to control their internal clocks and also not being able to sit quietly and read while mom is snoring away in the next room.  This is the span of time when your alarm clock is again not needed because instead of a crying baby, you get an actual child yelling your name from the foot of your bed asking for a snack or a bathroom break.
Or worse yet, when they just stand there, hovering over you without making a sound and some strange sixth sense wakes you up because you can literally feel their presence.  They’re lucky you don’t reach out and slug them in your broken slumber bewilderment.
Currently, we’ve reached the school-age stage, where my mornings are studded with packing lunches and gathering items for all of our days, which begin promptly at the same time every morning with no leeway whatsoever.  This lack of spare time crunches non-morning people like myself who bumble around for a good chunk of the morning and by noon can’t honestly remember what I packed in their lunches and hope that it wasn’t a potato and a bottle of salad dressing.
And so for the good of the people, I finally decided that in order to not be the wicked witch of the morning and also that my children are semi-well fed, I actually need to get up even earlier.  I require a 20-minute buffer between sleep and functionality and subsequently set my once-dusty alarm clock to smaller and smaller numbers to protect the ones I love.
A 2007 poll by CBS News found that most people are most productive at 10:00 AM, followed by 9:00 AM and finally 8:00 AM.  They also found that the older that people get, the more likely they are to wake up earlier naturally.  And finally, there was a direct correlation between salary and how much of a morning person people are; most people who earn more than $75,000 actually prefer early mornings.  
It doesn’t take me 20 minutes of a sleepy blur to figure out my own patterns.  By the time my kids are finally old enough to not wake me up or require lunches and eventually move out of the house giving me total freedom of sleep, I’ll be old, hopefully wealthy, and happily wake up at the crack of dawn with nothing to do.
Here’s hoping my nightgown will still fit.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunshine inspires stovetop granola

All it takes is a day of sunshine and I start to get spring fever.  And for whatever reason, spring fever for me inspires me to eat real, wholesome, from-scratch food.  

I usually make granola in the oven, in huge batches and it takes all day.  I tried a new recipe and with a few alterations found a great combination of flavors for my kids.  And me.  It’s sinfully delicious.
   1 Tbl olive oil
   2 cups rolled oats
   1/3 cup butter
   1/3 cup brown sugar
   1 Tbl honey
   1 tsp vanilla
   ½ cup chopped pecans
   2 graham crackers, broken into pieces
   milled flax seed (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in skillet.  Add oats and cook until oats are toasted but not burnt, about 5 minutes.  Remove oats to a cookie sheet to cool.
2. In skillet, melt butter.  Add brown sugar, honey, and vanilla.  Heat and stir until bubbly.  Turn off heat.
3. Return oats to skillet.  Add nuts, graham crackers, and flax seed.  Stir to combine.
4. Pour onto cookie sheet to cool.

Notes:  Feel free to add dried berries after it has cooled.  You can also experiment with different nuts, coconut, sesame seed, sunflower seeds, etc.  This is a good base recipe that is quick, easy, and doesn’t make 10 pounds, nor cost a fortune.  Put it on some whole milk yogurt for a real treat!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Becoming a penny angel

“See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.  See a penny let it lay, bad luck you’ll have throughout the day.”
I am not one to tempt fate or superstation, so when exiting my car at the grocery store this week I was astounded to find not one, not two, but three pennies.  Oh, the luck!  
But what’s unlucky is looking like a goofball crouching down in the parking lot to pick up dirty pennies, and then having to deal with the road sludge that usually covers each one.
I was faced with a decision.
My husband, who hates pennies, would leave them.  In fact, he may have even been the one to throw them down because he doesn’t like puny coins weighing down his pockets.  “I’ll just leave it for someone else, send them a little luck,” he admits.  But like I said, I didn’t want to tempt fate.  If I didn’t pick them up and then went on to have a really lousy day, whose fault would that have been? 
Truthfully I didn’t really want the grimy pennies, either, so right there on the spot I came up with what I think is a genius idea.  I picked them up, and then one by one, tossed them back on the ground, scattering them around the parking lot for others to find and be joyous about.  
Convinced I had done a decent thing and changed the course of destiny for three soon-to-be lucky people, I went into the store and prepared to treat myself to a cup of coffee to celebrate my new intelligence. Wouldn’t you know, there was someone chatting up the barista.  A long story short, it was a very nice barista and a very nice man and after striking up a conversation with both of them, the man actually bought me my cup of coffee.  
In my world, there are few things as fantastic, fabulous, wonderful, amazing, spectacular, etc. as a free cup of coffee.  In all seriousness, it sends me into smiley giggle fits just thinking about it.
Call it luck, call it coincidence, but I would be remiss if I didn’t attribute at least a few sips of the java to the luck of the pennies in the parking lot.
As it turns out, this lucky penny thing is nothing new.  For centuries people have considered copper a serendipitous metal, because copper was seen as a gift from the gods, and anyone who carried it was therefore protected from evil.  Others thought the luck came from just being a free piece of money.  And for some people, only pennies that are heads-up are the lucky ones, because in a world of only good and only evil, even ancient cultures believed that heads represented the positive and the measly tail came straight from the dark side.
And believe it or not, lucky pennies have even secured their own obscure holiday.  May 23rd of each year is supposedly Lucky Penny Day, a holiday with an unknown origin, but a great day for someone with a few pennies weighing down their pocket to toss them out and make someone like me very happy.  Almost as happy as getting a free cup of coffee.
The strangest thing about my day of lucky pennies has an even better ending.  After my morning of luck times three, that evening I was at yet another grocery store, walking through aisles and thinking about what happened to me that very morning.  Suddenly I looked down to find – you guessed it—another penny.  I just had to pick it up.  And then I just dropped it in the next aisle, the pinging sound of evil-thwarting copper landing on the tile floor, laying in wait until the next lucky person walked by.

Monday, February 6, 2012


There’s no denying it, that the older we get the more we complain.  I don’t I’ve had a conversation with my grandparents or parents lately that doesn’t involve some aching knee joint, a change in the barometer, or how the weather is always better somewhere else.
We “youngins” sit back and laugh and promise to never get like them, and if we do, we have written permission from our bestest of friends or siblings to send us away on a ship, never to return.  We laugh and joke, but deep down we’re honestly hoping to not turn into a whiny old person.
But the funny part is that we mothers are just as bad.  (Before I get started here, if you are a mother who has never once been low on energy and never moaned and groaned about diapers or the drop off line, the rest of this article does not pertain to you or anyone else on your planet.  Please don’t take offense.)
I, for one, am always telling the world how tired I am.  Mostly it comes out in three words, “large coffee, please,” but at times it rears its evil head in a soliloquy of raving mad stories and pleas for a shred of sanity.  For a job we all love this much and the vast majority of us asked for, we sure do whine a lot as mothers.
“I haven’t slept through the night in 12 years.”
“I haven’t eaten a warm meal since the millennium.”
“I’ve been wearing the same shirt for three days because I don’t have the energy to do laundry and/or change it.”
“Just once I’d like to see a movie that isn’t animated.”
“My behind has been completely reshaped to a flat pancake because of all of the time spent on a bleacher.”
“I could theoretically survive in my car for weeks.”
And so on and so forth, and we moms get together for “playdates” so our kids can fight and for just a few brief seconds we get to sit down on a park bench or in a church basement and unload our tiresome woes.
The following are actual stories of tired moms collected in the past week.  I truly wish I was making these up, including the first story in which I was sending a business-type email and signed it “Love, Karrie” and couldn’t even muster up the energy to write an apology.  It was 9:30 PM.
My dear cousin and mother of two recently put her food in the refrigerator to be warmed up, and then turned on the microwave.  She reports that it took her at least a minute to figure out where her food had vanished.
A friend of mine says that on more than one occasion she has found the cereal in the refrigerator, which for me happens more than I’d like to admit.  And yes, the milk is usually in the pantry.  Or the freezer.  Or one time, on the washing machine.
Another friend has tried vehemently to open her house with her car fob, clicking unlock unlock unlock and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working.
And the winner of them all, another friend recently brushed her teeth with cortisone cream.
These women are all very well educated people, tremendous parents of fantastic kids, and excellent whiny mothers.  We all are, and we don’t do it to be frumps looking for attention, we simply want the world to know that our intelligence has been temporarily halted due to some maternal functions such as lack of sleep and the preparation of fourteen thousand salami sandwiches and by matching tiny socks and carpools and checking math homework and playdates and board games all of which we lose because we can’t even focus long enough to get through Candyland without cheating.
We may not be rubbing on the Ben Gay, but I think our motherhood complaints are well-deserved enough to declare a new official term for the tired mother syndrome:  Mom-haustion. 
I think it works well.  I also think I have it.

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