Sunday, February 26, 2012

My sweet Colorado babies--

Had to share!

My sweet nephew and new baby niece. I think he's SNIFFING his sister! lol.

Wish I could see them and get lots of kisses--can't believe he's TWO next month, and she is already a month old!

It's hard being a long-distance sister and aunt.

~april

Sunday, February 19, 2012

(Better Than) Jason's Deli Chicken Alfredo

It started with a mania my girls were going through. Jason's Deli is our go-to eating-out-quickly restaurant. It is pricey, but they don't use all the preservatives and yucky sweeteners that other places hide in their foods, and the children's menu is WONDERFUL. However, I was tired of going there, getting home, and hearing "Mom, I want chicken alfredo!" They love it there.(Did I mention we drive 25 miles to GET there?)


So I decided to revisit my attempts at alfredo sauce. Trial and error, overly-complicated, high-fat-homemade to store-bought sauce(YUCK!), I have done it. Finally I have settled on a RECIPE that is(I think?) fool-proof, contains nothing overtly disgusting or artificial, and is relatively low-fat(seriously).

Interested?

You will need:

1 to 1.5 lbs(I usually use about 6-8 frozen chicken tenderloins, FROZEN)
1 tsp. olive oil(totally optional)
1/2 tsp.Mrs. Dash Table Blend(dark green lid--best seasoning mix I've found, easy-button here!)
1 and 1/4 tsp. salt(approx.)
freshly ground black pepper
dash of worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk(we use 2%, but skim DOES work)
2T cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 oz. grated parmesan(I just use the plastic bottle stuff most of the time; kids actually PREFER this!)
12-16 oz. pasta of choice--we use farfalle, mini penne, or  just wide egg noodles
water for pasta boiling
large bowl for serving


Start your pasta water boiling, with 1 tsp. salt.
Spray your(10"-12") skillet with nonstick spray or just use your olive oil to coat pan. Toss your FROZEN_easy button again!) chicken tenders in there, sprinkle with a tiny bit of your salt and about half the Mrs. Dash and some black pepper. Add about 1/4 cup of water, cover, and let it cook maybe ten minutes on med-high heat. Keep a watch on them so they don't run out of liquid and blacken(I may live in Louisiana, but I don't like black food! lol). Flip them over once they're pink only on the tops, sprinkle a little more seasoning on top, and add a dash of Worcestershire. When you're able to cut them into bite-size chunks with the metal spatula, they're done. Toss them into the serving bowl and COVER to keep warm. Your water should be ready to add the pasta now, so go ahead and toss that in to boil while you prep the sauce.

While your chicken tenders are cooking, stir the milk into the cornstarch using a whisk or a fork until the mixture is not lumpy. After the chicken comes out of the skillet, deglaze your pan a bit with a spoonful or two of pasta water, and pour in the milk/cornstarch mixture. WHISK CONSTANTLY and lower the heat to LOW. Once it starts to steam(you don't want bubbles!) begin adding the cheese about 1/3 at a time, stirring till it is smooth after each addition. Add the rest of your seasonings, and taste for salt and pepper. Once the sauce is thick and creamy, your pasta should be ready, so drain it and toss the sauce and pasta into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to combine, taste again for seasoning, and serve.

Seriously fast food, at home, twenty-five minutes, TOPS.

Taking the frozen chicken straight to the skillet is a GREAT time-saver and dish saver as well, PLUS if you're squeamish about raw meat, it really saves a lot of gross-out factor. :)

Calorie count(eight servings EASILY), approximately, per serving:

278 calories
3.5 grams fat
28 grams protein
34 grams carbohydrate

I used the stats on 2% milk, grated parmesan cheese, corn starch, 8 boneless skinless chicken tenderloins, and 12 oz. SmartTaste wide egg noodles. I did not include seasonings, worcestershire, or olive oil in my calculations.
 I hope this is something tasty and healthy you can add to your "fast food at home" menus!

~april

Friday, February 17, 2012

We had a really sweet Valentine's Day this year.
 J made chocolate chip cupcakes. Pretty and delicious.
Valentines, of course, were delivered.
 Read carefully.

And enjoyed.

 Gifts were opened.
Kids were SILLY.
Not exactly a beret...or a good fit.

Snuggles were enjoyed.

Kit and the dogs had a special Vday party.

The Redhead made donuts for their party.(These are Cheerios.)
Chocolate was eaten.

Love is everywhere, if you look just-so.

Have a happy weekend.

~april

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Lovely Lemon Cake

Note: This post is, for some reason at least partially due to the magic of Pinterest, my most-viewed post EVER. Shortly after posting this recipe, I began learning the horrors of genetically-modified foods and began feeling a bit of guilt over the ingredients in this recipe. However, there is good news! If you just need a sweet tooth fix, ALL of the GMO horrors can be prevented by purchasing organic versions of these ingredients. I encourage you to make the change. You will feel better for it. Our children's food futures will be better off for it as well. Thanks! ~april
For more on the problem of genetically-modified foods, visit http://www.nongmoproject.org/
This is also a wonderfully informative video on the subject.
******************************
This weekend we had some friends from WAY out of town coming for a visit, so I whipped up a little lemon pound cake to have on hand in case anyone had  a sweet tooth.
 I thought it turned out pretty.
 It was actually lemon-orange-almond....moist and dense.

Much yumminess(and didn't last LONG!).
:)


Preheat oven 350(325 dark pan)
Prep your bundt or tube cake pan with oil or non-stick spray.

Combine:
1 lemon cake mix(please buy an organic one!)
4 eggs(pastured or organic)
1/2c. organic milk(or organic non-dairy substitute)
1/2 c. orange juice
1 4-serving pkg. instant vanilla(or lemon, if you like it REALLY lemony)pudding(watch for artificial colors and flavors here)
1/2 c. pastured butter
3/4 c. plain organic Greek yogurt.(or sour cream)
1 tsp. organic almond extract
finely chopped zest of one ORANGE, mixed with about 1 tsp. organic cane sugar

Mix on low till combined, then on medium for about three minutes. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes(depending on your pan and oven temperature). Done when a toothpick comes out with crumbs!

Let cool about a half hour in pan, place on cake plate, and drizzle with basic glaze--1.5 c. confectioners' sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and enough half and half or milk to make it a nice drizzling consistency.


Enjoy!

~april

Linking up to Share the Love Wednesday

Friday, February 3, 2012

(Twenty)Random Things That Make Life Easier

As I was catching up on blogs that I follow today, I came across Susan's fun and informative post over at Between Naps on the Porch, and it set me to thinking of the things we use around here that are my go-to items. I thought I'd join her impromptu Linky on the subject, so here they are in no particular order, except  the order in which I thought of them!

Binder clips in all sizes. Papers, Bookmarks, Chip clips, Cord  holders, Photo hangers, even an emergency hair clip!

High-quality pencils and a GOOD electric sharpener. Mirado Black Warrior are my favorites!

USB Drive, Flash Drive, Thumb Drive...whatever you call it, it makes life with multiple computers and  many files MUCH easier to deal with!

Touch Dimmer on my headboard--controls the lamp by my bed.

THIS lamp, to be exact.

(Cue harp music) This is THE coffeepot/drink station. It keeps water hot in a separate reservoir for those impromptu and much-desired cups of tea through the day, and it does a marvelous job on the coffee AND having it ready when our eyes first open in the morning.

Automatic hand soap dispenser. Touch free, for those extra-messy moments. This one stays by the prep sink .(Incidentally, I didn't take a picture, but that reminds me that TWO kitchen sinks and TWO garbage disposals are INDISPENSABLE at this house! Best decision I made on this kitchen!)

Light remote. Keeps me from crawling under furniture to unplug things, especially around holidays. Also great for controlling the hall lamp UPstairs.

This saves my sanity at kitchen cleanup time. 

The toaster oven gets used daily.
I have a ton of clipboards. Kids use them for worksheets; I organize my lists and various projects by clipping  things onto a board--almost like a filing system!

Who has a KitchenAid  stand mixer and CAN live without it? I love this thing. I was a gift for my birthday eight years ago,  and  I don't know what I DID before I got it!

Ah, the wireless SD card--puts my pictures straight from my camera to my computer wirelessly, instantly.  No need for cables. This is the part you plug in to set up the card. The card is in my camera!

Wireless printer/scanner/copier. We homeschool. Yes, it's dusty. Paper is dusty. My room is dusty. Life is busy!

Daily moisturizer with SPF. Love this stuff--light, not greasy. Works well with and without foundation.

A Southern girl HAS to have her lipstick. This stuff STAYS PUT--so I don't get caught looking "white as a sheet" when I forget to check the mirror before heading out for an errand! :)

Nothing wakes up the face like mascara--gotta have it. Have tried other more expensive brands, but this one keeps me coming back. Not waterproof, thank you!

Excellent moisturizer. Soothing on insect bites. Works great on eye makeup.  Good for you, too!

Essential oils. House cleaning, health concerns, pest control, etc. Gotta have them!
Long skirts and comfy shoes...

In particular, I live in my Crocs--not the clunky ones, but these. LOVE. It's hard to put on anything dressier now, they're so COMFORTABLE(and surprisingly supportive--and can be cleaned when I forget and wear them out in the muddy yard to check on my chickens!)

Travel-knit skirts. Since I went to wearing skirts 95% of the time about  a year  and a half ago, I cannot  make it without these from Coldwater Creek. I buy them on sale with a coupon and free shipping, which takes the price from astronomical to around $20. No ironing, they wash beautifully, drape beautifully, are LONG enough, and wear WELL.  My only complaint is that they're VERY basic in the selection of colors!

So that's my list of how many, twentyish , things?

It's all just stuff, y'all, but it's kind of fun to see what OTHER people use and prefer!
Thanks, Susan! This was fun!

Hope you ALL have a happy weekend!

~april