Friday, March 10, 2017

Homemade Peanut Butter Bars

Well, this is my last queued post for the week so I thought I'd end on a sweet note! My ten year old actually found this recipe for us!  She was having a daddy daughter activity at church and they were supposed to bring a treat their dad loved.  For my husband that is Reeses peanut butter cups! So my daughter decided to try her hand at making homemade cups and ended up with a hit! With a little more effort you can make these look like actual cups but they are just as tasty in bar form. Give them a try!

Homemade Peanut Butter Bars
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (finely ground)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons peanut butter
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl place graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, melted butter and one cup of the peanut butter.  Mix well.  Press peanut butter mixture into bottom of a well greased 9x13 pan.  In a medium microwave safe bowl combine the remaining 4 T. of peanut butter with the chocolate chips.  Melt in microwave for about 1.5 minutes (stirring every 30 seconds).  Carefully spread chocolate mixture on top of peanut butter mixture.  Place tray in refrigerator and allow to cool for 1 hour. 

At this point cut the bars evenly into snack sized squares (this prevents the chocolate from breaking off when you cut them later).  Continue to refrigerate for another 1-2 hours or until set. Re-cut bars and serve!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches

When my kids start school again it's always a shock to their system.  A full day of school can be a lot for a kindergartner, or a second grader, or a 4th grader who weighs about 15 lbs.  So I wanted to start loading them up with more protein each morning!  For awhile I tried in vain to get up early enough to cook a nice meal each morning but it turned out my kids and my husband would really prefer cold cereal to a big breakfast that early.  And then I had a baby and making breakfast each morning slowly faded away.  So how can I pack some protein into their diet without having to make a big breakfast?

Enter: The breakfast sandwich!  For awhile I was using the Jimmy Dean delights but I could only get a good price on them at Sam's (which is an hour away) and so we didn't always have them.  So finally I decided to make some of my own and save a little $$.  And save $$ it did.  Plus in about an hour I made a huge freezer stockpile of these bad boys and I could customize them exactly to what my kids would eat.  No cheese for one, sausage for some, ham for some, etc.  It has been great!  I also do this with breakfast burritos and will have to post the recipe for that sometime.  Give it a try and save yourself some time in the morning!

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches
12 eggs
12 English muffins, toasted
12 turkey sausage patties, cooked (pork sausage, ham or bacon work here too)
12 slices cheddar cheese (thin sliced)
salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly grease a 12 slot muffin tin.  Crack one egg in each cup and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake eggs at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes.  (We like our yolks a little runny still so I do about 16 min., but keep an eye on them and bake until you get the texture you want!)

Meanwhile, toast English muffins and cook sausage patties.  When eggs are done cooking build sandwiches by placing one egg, sausage, and slice of cheese between two english muffin halves.

Double wrap sandwiches in plastic wrap and label with a permanent marker.  (If your planning on making these a lot it can be helpful to write a date made on them so that you use them in the right order). Place them in the freezer.

When ready to re-heat.  Unwrap the sandwich from the plastic wrap and wrap it in a paper towel. Microwave for 1.5 minutes on 50% power.  Unwrap completely and flip sandwich over.  Heat for an additional minute at regular power or until meat is heated through.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

One hour Dinner Rolls

Well today is the day! For the past 6 years every time I make this recipe (and I make it a lot) I have to look it up in an old facebook conversation with my friend Rachel.  But today, I'm adding it to my blog so that I will be able to easily access it any time I want! Oh yeah, and I guess the rest of you can use it too!

I call these Jon's 1-hr. rolls because this recipe comes from my childhood neighbors (who are all excellent cooks). They are fluffy and delicious and super easy to throw together. The only change I've made to these is to substitute melted butter for the oil.  But know that either way works great.

They take one hour from start to finish (including baking!).  I often get them all ready except for baking and freeze them at that point.  Then when I'm ready for rolls I just pull them out of the freezer, let them rise until doubled and we're off to the races.  It's also a great recipe for kids to learn.  My eight year old loves to make bread with me and now she does these all on her own!

Jon's 1-Hour Dinner Rolls
1 3/4 cup warm water 
2 T. yeast 
1/3 cup plus 1 T. sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs*
1/2 T. salt 
5 - 6 cups flour 

Bloom yeast in warm water with 1 T. sugar sprinkled on top for about 5 min. Add remaining sugar, butter, eggs and salt and stir until incorporated.  Add flour one cup at a time and form dough in ball.  Place dough in greased bowl (I usually just use the bowl from my stand mixer) Let rest in warm place for 10- 15 min.

Divide dough in half.  Place first half of dough on a lightly floured non-stick surface and roll into a 12 in. circle.  Using a pizza cutter slice dough into 12 even wedges.

Form rolls by rolling each wedge from thick edge to tip like a crescent roll. Place each roll evenly spaced on a large baking sheet and repeat with second half of dough. (At this point you can refrigerate the rolls (covered) for up to 24 hours or freeze them** When ready to bake, let rolls rise for another 15 min. or until roughly doubled. 

Bake at 375 for 12 min or golden. Makes  two dozen rolls.

* If you double only add one additional egg. 

**Freezing instructions:  When rolls have been formed and placed on baking sheet, cover them with foil and place in the freezer.  When they are frozen solid you can transfer them to a gallon sized freezer bag for long term storage.  When ready to bake, remove from freezer and allow to defrost.  When rolls have defrosted, let them continue to rest for about 15 minutes and then follow baking instructions above. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad

So this is another recipe that I thought I'd posted before but someone told me it wasn't on here! I'm glad they realized it wasn't here because now I have the chance to post it and you can add this delicious recipe to your rotation!  I love this salad because it's light and fresh and makes a giant bowl's worth of food. It's great for a potluck, party, or for packing a family's worth of lunches at once!

Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad
1 box of pasta (penne or bow tie are my favorites to use)
3 cups shredded chicken
2 green onions (sliced)
1 bag baby spinach
1 cup snow peas
2 cans mandarin oranges (drained)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/3 cups soy sauce
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup sesame oil
2 T. sugar
salt and pepper (to taste)

Cook pasta. Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds.  In a small bowl or salad dressing mixer, whisk all the dressing ingredients (including the toasted sesame seeds) together until well combined.

When pasta is al dente, drain and rinse in cold water.  Place pasta, chicken and half the dressing in a large bowl and toss.  Let refrigerate at least one hour (or overnight) to marinate chicken and pasta.

When ready to serve add the rest of the ingredients and toss with remaining dressing.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Easy Baked Salmon and Veggies

I love salmon and since it's pink so do my kids :)  We cook it in a variety of ways but one of my favorite and easiest ways is to bake it right along side some veggies.  You throw it all in a 9x13 and walk away. 20 minutes later you're all set with a delicious meal!  It turns out moist, flaky and perfect every time!

 It's pictured here with asparagus but I've also done baby carrots, brussel sprouts, and zucchini. I also change up the seasoning frequently too depending what I'm serving it with.  I've listed lemon-pepper below but I also love dill or southwestern spices (like chili powder and garlic salt).  If you love a quick and healthy meal this will become a go-to for you!

Baked Salmon and Veggies
2-3 lbs. salmon
1 medium bunch thin asparagus (or sub in your favorite veggie)
1/4 cup butter (sliced thin)
3 T. olive oil
1 T. lemon pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Line a 9x13 pan with a large piece of foil (leave enough on the sides to fold over salmon).  Place salmon (skin side down) in the middle of the pan and surround it with veggies.

Thinly slice butter and place pats of butter on top of salmon and veggies.  Sprinkle veggies with olive oil as well.  Shake lemon pepper, salt and pepper evenly over salmon and veggies.  Pull edges of foil in to slightly cover.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until thickest part of salmon is opaque and pink.  Serve with rice pilaf, calabacitas,  mango salsa, mashed potatoes, or enjoy all by itself! 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Calabacitas (updated)

Do you have recipes that seems to evolve over the years! I do too and I never seem to get around to updating them on the blog.  Which means I'm constantly looking up recipes on here and then I realize I don't make it like that anymore. So today I finally decided to do something about it!

Calabacitas are a delicious side dish here in New Mexico.  Full of flavor, low carb, and the perfect compliment to any meat.  We have them with steak, salmon, chicken, or even sometimes in place of meat altogether.  I've even had a delicious New Mexican shephards pie featuring calabacitas.

They are spicy, cheesy, zucchini goodness. My husband and I love them and 2 out of 5 kids eat them too (as soon as my youngest gets teeth I'm sure he'll join in).  I previously posted a grilled recipe I use for these but here is my stove top version!  Enjoy!

2-3 T. olive oil
2 small zucchini, sliced (about 1/2 in. thick slices)
2 small yellow squash, sliced (about 1/2 in. thick)
1 med. sweet onion, chopped
2 T. water
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green chile (I use frozen)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chile powder
1 can corn, drained
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium- high heat.  Add zucchini, yellow squash, onion and water. Cover and cook until onions are transparent and squash is tender (7-10 minutes) making sure to stir and flip squash/zucchini frequently.  Uncover and add garlic. Continue cooking until garlic is frangrant (2-3 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium and carefully fold in green chile, spices and corn.  Top with shredded cheese.  Re-cover skillet and cook until corn is heated and cheese is melted on top.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Ham and Swiss Rolls

So I made these for a cooking party I was hosting last night and I realized I've never put them on my blog!  These are super fast and delicious. They are also a great make ahead recipe since they can sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking. I've made them for appetizers and my girls even love them for dinner with some veggies on the side.  I get asked for the recipe all the time and last night one of my friends had one bite and said she needed the recipe right then!  They are that good!

Ham and Swiss Rolls
1 can pillsbury pizza dough
1/2 lb. thin sliced deli ham
12 slices Swiss cheese (thin sliced)
1/2 cup butter (melted)
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. Worchestshire sauce
1-2 T. dijon mustard (I've also used spicy brown mustard and they turned out great)
2 tsp. poppyseeds

Roll pizza dough out flat.  Top with ham and cheese slices.

Starting on a long side, roll the dough tightly and make sure to connect the seam at the end.

Using a serrated knife slice into 12 even rolls and place in a 9x13 pan.

  In a small sauce pan combine the rest of the ingredients and stir until butter is melted and sauce is heated through.  Top each roll evenly with sauce. At this point rolls can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. When ready to serve,  bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Then hurry and grab one before your kids eat them all! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Perfect New Year's Goals and the Imperfect People Who Make Them

As I've been considering the resolutions I make this year I've felt impressed to share them on my blog.  I say I've felt impressed to share them because they aren't really the type of goals that I'm accustomed to making for myself. They are not very pretty or flashy.  In  fact, I'm probably going to embarrass myself over and over again to accomplish them.  Interest piqued? Good! Read on...

In order to share these goals with you I'm going to have to be honest about the current condition of my mental health and that is a really scary thing to do. But at least it proves I do still, in fact, have a mind after having  five kids so that's hopeful. This post might be surprising or even confusing to some but there are others out there who will know all to well what I'm talking about and I'd love for them to know that they are not alone.

In the midst of instagram, pinterest, and lifestyle blogs I think sometimes we begin to forget what real life looks like. And although I've never purposefully tried to be unrealistic I think I've definitely been guilty of only posting the good parts of me on social media.  So, this post is about the other side of life.   This part of life doesn't get beautifully photographed or attached to our Christmas letters.  But for many of us it's always there.  Sometimes loud and large, sometimes small and almost unseen.  The hard, ugly, not fun part of life that gets overlooked and hidden until it roars and looms and won't be ignored any longer. And while this post would probably be easier to write in a year from now when things are less raw, or even ten years from now when parts begin to become fuzzy, I think perhaps it can have the most impact now. And so as scary as it is to write, this is the story of my postpartum depression and what it's taught me about the world we live in now.

Mentally, physically and emotionally the task of making resolutions this year has seemed completely overwhelming to me.  Not to mention, you know, actually following through on any kind of self improvement tasks. Usually a new year brings me excitement and a sense of purpose but this year has found me exhausted, confused and at times completely hopeless. The self help books, religious articles and motivational speeches that would have once left me feeling driven, determined and ready to be better have left me feeling alone, abandoned and broken. 

Two years ago I was at the peak of my game.  I had lost 50 lbs. I ran my first half marathon. I was teaching preschool, serving as a PTA officer at my kids' school, running a small cake decorating business, teaching the women's group at church and updating my mom blog pretty regularly.  If I ever had free time I would feel guilty and fill it up with something else. And I wore my "busy-ness" badge with pride.  Yes, pride.  Because I'd bought into the idea that my worth as a person was no more than the sum total of what I could accomplish in a day.  A very easy trap to fall in to and one that I'll address more later.

For now lets fast forward to six months ago.  I moved across town and had my fifth child! A beautiful little boy that is a huge blessing in my life! But it was a rough pregnancy and I had to give up several items on my check list. Then I ended up in a c-section after spending months commuting an hour away to a doctor who would do a vbac.  And I felt like a failure. So I decided this failure was because I just working hard enough. So I recommitted to my checklists and 5 days after my c-section I was back out in the world sitting poolside while my kids swam with friends.  And I started back to exercising at 3 weeks. And I cleaned the whole house. And I organized the kids clothes.  And I wound up back at the doctors with an infection and exhausted and was told that I needed to slow down.  So I did.  For about 2 days.  Then I was still unhappy so I found thing after thing to blame this unhappiness on...first it was my wardrobe.  Nothing fit. So I bought new clothes. Still unhappy.  Must be that my house needed work, fixed up the house. Still unhappy.  So I moved on to the next thing...

Finally, after about two months of failed attempts to resume my pre-baby lifestyle I found myself exhausted, angry, agitated and quite frankly confused as to what to do.  The activities that had once brought my joy (cooking, organizing, volunteering) now just brought me frustration and depression.  The activities that had once recharged my batteries (parties, book club, being social) brought only anxiety and agitation. Unable to cover up how I was feeling for long periods of time I began to attend less.  I'd show up late or leave early when I felt like people might see the real me peeking through.  I stopped blogging and volunteering. I stopped cleaning or cooking. And I finally let the depression and anxiety overtake me and I felt completely swallowed up. My husband covered for me when he could and once a week I'd put on my smile and head out to church and for a while the charade worked and no one knew a thing. And it got to the point where I looked at my life and I honestly couldn't see anything that I was doing right. And it got to the point where I couldn't remember ever doing anything right. And I wondered if I would ever be able to do anything right ever.

Luckily, I have a husband, and family, and a few close friends who convinced me to seek help.  And it was scary and hard to admit that I needed others help and the lessons that I've learned about postpartum health, and mental health, and medication, and therapy, and meditation could fill a whole blog.  But, I'm already six paragraphs into this post and I'm still not at my point so I'm going to jump over all the lessons I've learned and get to the point...

New Year's goals!  This experience with depression and anxiety has caused me to look at my life and think about what is and isn't working.  The most shocking realization for me was that even when I was accomplishing my whole list I wasn't happy. And as I look back at the goals I've made for myself in the past I can see that they haven't made me happy.  Regardless of how many things I was checking off my list, I was still living life on the verge of a breakdown.  So why? Why can I try to do good things and not end up in a good place? And I realized it's because I haven't done things with the right intentions.  My way of looking at goals was I'm going to try and be better at X,Y, and Z because then maybe I'll be a good person, more worthy, more well-liked.  When I really should have been saying because I'm a good and worthy person I'm going to do X,Y, and Z to help me improve.  The difference is slight but important.

What are some of the wrong reasons to do good things? Maybe some of us make goals out of guilt.  Or because others expect it of us. Or maybe we pick our goals because they look the prettiest on social media or so that others will know how good we are.  Maybe some of us pick goals because everyone else is doing it. Or maybe we pick goals for the joy of making a list.  Or because we are competitive.

I recently re-read a talk about the difference between doing and being by Lynn G. Robbins. He says "Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s...Do without be—hypocrisy—portrays a false image to others, while be without do portrays a false image to oneself."  I've been doing without being.  We can do this all the time.  People can memorize scriptures all day long but if they don't apply what they are reading (like becoming kinder or more humble) then it hasn't really effected who they are at all.  We can go to church and learn about God but if we don't believe that he loves all of his children equally we haven't learned anything. We can make the most perfect, picture worthy, food for our families but still be an emotionally neglectful parent. We can lose 50 lbs. and still be an unhealthy person.

So how do we switch our thinking?  When we make a goal to lose weight is it so that we'll feel healthier and happier or is because we think society is judging us because we don't look like a billboard ad? When we make a spiritual goal is it to bring us closer to God and our fellow man or is to distinguish ourselves as more spiritual than someone else. When we talk to our children about goal-setting is our emphasis on them getting better grades, cleaning their room better, and looking perfect on Sunday or are we talking about the more important things in life like being kind and patient, actually learning things instead of just memorizing facts, and forming healthy relationships with others. We have to break free of guilt, shame, and expectation and start goal setting using hope, joy, and love.

In that spirit,  I am trying to make goals this year that will actually help me be a better person, not just look like a better person. Instead of trying to cover up my flaws by doing more good things, I'm going to try to do less of the things that are bad for me. So without further ado, my goals...

Goal #1) Care less about what other people think of me.  I think writing this embarrassingly honest blog post is a good start! When we choose actions based on what other people might think of us we can drive ourselves crazy.  This doesn't mean that we don't consider other people's feelings. But just that we also consider our own feelings as equally important.  So I'm going to spend less time being a door mat or a punching bag. When we allow others opinions or expectations to dictate our actions then we are "doing" without actually "being".  We also stand the risk of being wishy-washy as we are tossed about from one persons opinion to the next.  I'm going to be more confidant in the things I believe, or feel, or want and express those to the people around me.  I'm also going to focus on the opinions that matter most to my family, my Savior and myself.  I'm going to spend less time seeing how many of my junior high school friends "like" my status. I'm going to speak my mind more. I'm going to worry less about if people are upset or offended by me by trusting that they will tell me when they are. And if they decide to gossip about me or harbor grudges that's on them. When someone brings up something they think I could do better or differently I'm not going to immediately cave.  I will listen to their opinion and then decide either A) yes, they are right and I need to change or B) I'm going to stand strong in my opinion on this. I'm going to be more realistic about what is going on in my life. I'm going to allow myself to be happy when I feel happy and sad when I feel sad. And I'm going to have faith that the people who matter will love me anyway.

Goal #2)  Care less about what other people are doing. Well this sounds like a jerk move! But what I mean by this is that I'm going to do less comparing and competing.  Isn't there a saying like unhappiness comes from counting others people's blessings more than your own.  If not, there should be on account of it would really help the point I'm trying to make! How will I make this a measurable goal? I'm going to spend less time on social media. I'm going to uninstall apps that don't make happy.  I'm going to be more genuinely happy for others successes by realizing that they don't make mine less.  I'm going to realize that we usually aren't seeing the whole picture and that people all have struggles. If people do something that hurts me I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was an accident. I'm going to spend less time being upset by other people. I'm going to forgive and let things go faster.  I'm going to engage less in unhealthy competition. I say unhealthy competition because we all need a little competition in our lives to move us forward but I've let it get out of control.  Don't worry, I'll still be doing fitbit challenges, but when someone tries to compete about money, kids, houses, who's busier, etc. I'm not going to engage. I'm going to realize more that people don't really care all that much about what I'm doing either.  So I can spend more time enjoying my kids school performance and less time getting the perfect picture for instagram.  Bam! I just reclaimed like 10 minutes of my life every day!

Goal #3) Do less. Um, isn't this the exact opposite of setting a goal? Probably.  But I've been doing a lot of things that just really aren't that important.  I go full speed and fill up every part of my day until I get overly tired and crash and burn.  This year I'm going to try and take small breaks along the way so that I can stay more even.  I'm going to say no more often. (That should be easy, right? Since I'm caring less about what other people think of me) I'm going to realize I can't be all things to all people and that I have to prioritize what I'm doing.  I understand that where I spend my time is effecting who I become.  Do I spend it with my kids? Do I spend it doing mundane chores? Do I spend it on facebook? I understand that I still have to do things I don't want to do but I've got to find a healthier balance by sprinkling in some things I do want to do.  I have to clean my house but I doesn't have to be immaculate.  I have to feed my family but I'm not a failure if we have to have chicken nuggets one night.  I have to exercise but it's okay if I'm not running marathons. I'm not going to feel guilty if I do something fun before all of my chores are done.  Some days I'm going to nail my entire to-do list and some days I'm going to binge watch old episodes of West Wing and I'm an equally awesome person on both. I'm going to let people know my limits more. Oh, and I also might take a nap sometime.  Yeah, that would be sweet.

Goal #4) See goal #3 and stop adding more goals to the list.

Do I still need/want to lose weight? Sure! Do I still have a goodreads goal? Yep! But this year I'm going to focus more on what I am ("a super girl working on her degree") and less time worrying if I'm doing enough. The journey to becoming a better person starts with believing you are already a good and worthwhile person.  That's a step I've been missing in the past.  Becoming a stronger, healthier person is going to feel uncomfortable at times.  I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to fail. I'm going to accidentally step on others toes and misspeak. It's not going to look perfect or pinterest worthy. But I'm doing it anyway.  By doing less of the things that are holding me back I'm going to move forward.  By spending less time on things that make me ultimately unhappy I'm going to have more time to look for joy, love and peace.  If you need someone to remind you that you are a good and worthy person too I'm here for you! Happy New Year!