January 29, 2012

Easiest Chicken Pot Pie Ever

My brother in law is famous in the family for his chicken pot pie.  It's so good and after finding out the recipe I found out how easy it is.  I almost always have the ingredients to make this comfort food dish. 
Here's the recipe...
2 cans cream of potato soup
1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies
1 Cup or so of chopped up cooked chicken
2 frozen pie crusts (most times you can find these in the frozen section in the grocery store with 2 in one package)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of these in a bowl and spoon into a refrigerated pie crust (make sure you plan ahead and take the frozen pie crusts out of the freezer to thaw ahead of time).  Top pot pie with second pie crust and cut slits on top for venting.  Pinch the 2 pie crusts together around the edges to create a seal.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until hot in the middle and crust is golden. (I also put the pie on a baking sheet to prevent a mess in the oven in case it bubbles over or there is a crack in the crust where the filling will bubble out during baking).

January 26, 2012

Painting with Ice Cubes

I totally stole this idea from my high school friend that has her own blog that's magnificent.  I love this idea because we do art projects and painting constantly.  This makes things a little different which in turn makes it more fun for the kiddos.  This is the first time Lilly has gotten to paint with ice cubes and both my munchkins loved it. 
I put a piece of paper on a paper towel to absorb extra moisture from the melting ice cube and put the paper towel and paper in a pan to keep everything contained.  We use washable paint so the cleanup on the pans is super easy. 

Put a few drops of paint on the paper, place an ice cube on the paper and let the kids smear the colors all around.  I gave my kids a plastic fork to help move the ice around but they liked using their own hands to move the ice cube around.  This was a little more messy, but not bad.

Loved how they turned out!

January 24, 2012

I'm a Redhead!

Ah, the joys of changing my hair color by the season...I'm currently a redhead.  I have been about every color in the rainbow, it seems like, throughout my life.  I usually do red in the winter and blond in the summer.  I would've liked a darker red, but this is what came out and it's good for right now.
I got a great deal on hair color with a Walgreens sale and a coupon and got each box of hair dye for $3.  I picked up 4 boxes, all different colors.  It's not like if I don't like the color I can't wear a hat for a couple of days and dye it again.  I once went to church with burgundy hair and matched the pews.  I was not going to miss church! 
So, here I am:)
I used Clairol foam 6R-light auburn.  I have to say that I like the no drip formula of the foam but if you've ever tried it you know that it has the worst smell.  It's not like a normal hair dye smell...it's like a peroxide stinky sock smell.  It takes about 2-3 days to wash that smell out.  Yuck.  But, I had never tried the foam and it was a great promotional price for the right color.

I also love this blog and the hair demo she posted this past Friday was fun to try out on myself.  Her hair is about 5 times thicker than mine, but I gave it a shot.  It was nice to curl my hair and feel 'pretty'.  I might actually paint my fingernails tonight.  Watch out!  I'm on a roll!

January 21, 2012

Ear tubes-again!

So, almost a year ago my daughter had 8 back to back ear infections.  After the 8th one our pediatrician finally gave us the go ahead for tubes.  I was worried and had weighed the benefits and looked into chiropractic alignment as a possible cure for the constant ear infections along with homeopathic remedies.  But, tubes seemed to be the answer for our little love bug.  She fared well and we have only had one ear infection since the tubes and that was over the Christmas weekend.  The reason why she had an ear infection...her tube in her left ear has become dislodged and is not in the proper placement to be draining any fluid.  How do I know this?  I took her in this week to the ENT and that's what his exam revealed.  She is on meds to prevent the current fluid in her ear from becoming a full blown ear infection and in 3 weeks if the meds don't work it is new tubes.  uggh!  I am not looking forward to this due to my husband being in the Air Force and there are no 'sick days' in the Air Force.  So, I most likely will have to juggle surgery, my sons preschool schedule, and taking care of my daughter during recovery on my own. 
I'll keep you all updated.  But you may be seeing a post about our second go round with ear tubes in about a month.:)

Here is how my sweet little girl looked a year ago when she got he tubes in initially.  (this is at lunchtime after a couple of hours crying non stop).

This is how my angel of a son dealt with her nonstop crying for hours.  He was an absolute saint!

January 18, 2012

Kids and Computers

I'm one of those mothers who hates it when my kids watch something on TV that doesn't teach them a valuable lesson.  They are so deprived, I know!
The same goes for the computer.  My son loves to play the PBS kids games and his eye hand coordination and problem solving skills have improved from using the computer and playing these educational games.  My daughter is at the age now that she can benefit from certain online programs too.  Below (in no particular order) are the top 3 of my kids and I's favorite free websites with educational games for them to play.  My children are 4 years old and 2 years old, so the below websites are based on their educational levels.

Veggie Tales Website for Games

PBS kids

Starfall's (one of my favorites-what my daughter is playing in the picture below)


January 14, 2012

Crockpot Lasagna

My husband looked at me super sceptical when I told him Lasagna was in the crock pot for dinner.  He is half Italian, so you can imagine his doubt that a lasagna in a crock pot (meatless, no less) would be good.  But, it was one of the BEST lasagnas we've ever tasted.  I will definitely make this recipe again.  It was super easy and soooo good!

Crock Pot Veggie Lasagna (Serves 6-8)

2 Cups Zucchini, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mushrooms and/or Spinach
1 15 oz Container Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Tbsp Dried Italian Herbs
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
1 Large Egg
1 25 oz Jar Pasta Sauce
1 Box Lasagna Noodles (uncooked)
2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese, grated

1. Place the vegetables in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop.
2. Place the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, herbs, garlic powder, salt and egg in a bowl and stir to combine.
3. Pour half of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a crock pot.
4. Place a layer of noodles on top of the sauce, covering the entire surface, breaking the noodles to fit the pot.
5. Layer half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, followed by 1 cup of the chopped vegetables and then one cup of mozzarella cheese.
6. Repeat with another layer of noodles, followed by the remaining ricotta mixture and the chopped vegetables.
7. Pour the remaining pasta sauce on top of the lasagna and top with the remaining cup of the grated cheese.
8. Cook on low for 4 hours.
9. Serve.

I got the recipe from the most handy recipe blog.  You can change up some of the veggies for what you have on hand.  I put in mushrooms, frozen spinach, and zucchini and it worked great.  I cannot tell you how yummy this was.  I put it on while the kids were napping and when we got back from my son's karate class later that night we dug in. 

January 10, 2012

Swirl and Spin Art for Kids

The kids were super sick over the holidays so we didn't have much energy.  We did, however, have enough pep in our step to try out the new art projects I bought for the kids for Christmas.
Note to new moms:  ALWAYS buy the same toy for each child to prevent melt downs.  :)
I got these Swirl and Spins from Melissa and Doug during a great black Friday sale. 

I've seen some of these that require batteries, but the ones I purchased were hand cranked.  Which, even my 2 year old was able to do successfully due to the wonderful suction cups on the bottom of the device that kept it secured to the table. 
Even though we were all 'under the weather' it was a fun and easy project.  We did a ton and I'm saving some of them to turn into notes to send out to the family. 

It looks messy, but really the paint stays completely contained in its red holder.  Here is what it looked like when we were all done and took out the paper.
I thought this would be a huge mess to try to get all the built up paint out of the sides but all it took was spraying them with warm water from the sink and using a paper towel to wipe them down.  EASY!
All clean! 
I would recommend this project to anyone.  (I was not paid to endorse this product.  I just like to share great finds with friends).

January 06, 2012

One Chicken=Two Dinners

Here is a huge time saver for making dinners...buy a whole chicken, boil it, and see your endless possibilities. 
This particular day, I boiled a whole chicken during my kids nap time.  I let it cool and then picked it. (you can seperate the white meat from the dark meat if you want for particular dinner dishes you want to make). 
I have chosen to make Chicken Enchiladas and Easy Chicken Pasta Bake.  Both are favorites of mine and super yummy.  They can both be eaten the same night that you make them or frozen and eaten on another day.  This is not quite like Rachel Ray's A week in a day, but its at least One Chicken=Two Dinners.

Here is recipe #1:
Chicken Enchiladas
(before it was baked, of course)
This is a super easy and quick chicken enchilada recipe I use all the time. It's great for eating the night you prepare it or freezing it and saving it for another night.

1 1/2 Cups pulled boiled chicken (from one chicken=two meals post)
2 Cups cheddar or Mexican style cheese (as much as you desire)
2 10 oz. cans enchilada sauce (desired spiciness is up to you)
1 pack of 12 inch flour tortillas (you probably will not use the entire pack)
half of a small onion, chopped
small can of diced green chilies

~Saute` the chopped onions in about 1/2 can of enchilada sauce in pot over medium heat on stove top.
~While those cook until they are softened, make sure you have the chicken pulled to bite size pieces.
~Once the onions are sauted; add 1 cup cheese, diced green chilies, and chicken. (if you want to stretch your meal you can also add half a can of refried beans or 1/2 to 1 whole can of pinto beans or black beans).
~Stir over low heat until cheese is melted and all is thoroughly combined. Don't stop stirring so
you don't burn your cheese on the bottom of the pot.
~Spoon a large spoonful of mixture onto a flour tortilla. (I like to use wheat tortillas since they are healthier and my family doesn't really notice a difference since the tortillas are covered with enchilada sauce and cheese).
~Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down on a greased casserole dish.
~Once the pan is full, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the entire dish and top with remaining cheese.
~Cook at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted.
~Serve with side of Spanish rice, tortilla chips and guacamole.

Look at all the remaining chicken meat I have left over for my second dinner dish!

Here is recipe #2 (taken from here-I LOVE this website)
Easy Chicken Pasta Bake
1 cup cooked macaroni -or- any other small pasta shape
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed
1 small onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1lb roma tomatoes
1 cup good quality shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley [flat-leaf not the curly stuff]
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tbsp butter
salt + pepper
olive oil

1.  Cook the pasta and drain.

2.  Roast the tomatoes:
~Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
~Cover deep baking pan with aluminum paper [trust me this makes for ez clean up]
~Place tomatoes in baking dish drizzle with olive oil, salt + pepper and toss until evenly coated.
~Bake in preheated oven until the skins pop & start to brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Once cooled mash with a fork or potato masher.  Set aside.

3. Bring down oven temperature to 400 degrees.

4. Cook the chicken:
~Coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil over medium heat.
~Season chicken with salt + pepper.
~Add chicken to hot pan and cook for 3 min.
~Add onions and garlic, stir to combine and cook until onions are soft and chicken is cooked through.

5. Put the pasta together:
~Put cooked pasta, chicken mixture, mashed roasted tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt and pepper [to taste] into a 8×12 baking dish.  Stir to combine.
~In a small bowl mix together bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Then sprinkle over the pasta mixture.
~Dot the top with small bits of butter.
~Bake (at 400 degrees F.) until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

This recipe tastes so good and makes your house smell delicious in the process!
So, there you have it...Once Chicken=Two Dinners.
(I even had some boiled chicken left over that I turned into chicken salad for a snack)!

January 03, 2012

Grocery Tips

Since couponing is such a craze I decided to give it a try.  I'm not an 'extreme couponder' yet, but have been able to get a few things for free with sales and coupons and am slowly growing a stockpile.  We live in the Midwest and do not have a large selection of grocery stores to choose from so it makes it difficult to coupon successfully.

Here are just a few Shopping tips, not necessarily couponing tips.  Just a few things I have figured out to help shop on a budget.

~Buy only when on sale and you have a coupon:  This is when you get the best bang for your buck and sometimes even walk away with free stuff.  I had a coupon for BBQ sauce for .50 cents off of one.  The grocery store that I went to doubled the coupon and the sauce was on sale for .98 cents. So, I got it for free.  This was the first free thing I ever got from couponing.  No, I did not get 99 bottles of BBQ sauce b/c I only had one coupon.  But it was a success for a girl living in the country! ONE FREE BBQ SAUCE!

~Use a grocery store card.  I have figured out that if you have the store's card then you get a ton more discounts. (I've also gotten great deals by using a drug store card as well for small personal hygiene items like shampoo and soaps).  Yes, it is an incentive gimmick to shop just at their store, but if you shop wisely and do some store comparison then it will pay off.
Here is a receipt from using my drugstore card and buying things with coupons together with what was on sale.  I saved more than I spent, so for me it was a personal success.

~Buy up seasonal sales even if not needed at the time:  This was one of the harder things for me to do.  Living on a tight budget it was hard for me to buy things I didn't need during that month or week.  But, I knew I would need the item eventually.  And, knowing how harsh our winters are here I love the idea of having a stockpile so I don't need to shovel out my car just to go and get some ketchup (which goes on sale after 4th of July and Memorial day typically).

~Buying what's on sale and making menu, not making menu and then grocery list:  This was one of the hardest habits to break and get used to.  I would always make a weekly menu, look in the pantry and then make a grocery list.  Now I go and get what's on sale, look in the pantry after buying the sale items, and make a menu for the week.  I'm shocked at how much money I saved doing this one simple step.

~10 for $10: you do not have to buy all 10 to get the deal-Each item is $1.  Progresso soup went on sale at our area grocery store.  It was 10 for $10.  I had 2 coupons for .50 of off 3 cans.  I put 10 cans in my cart and then realized I only wanted 6 cans. I only wanted to buy the cans that I was using the coupons for.  I asked the manager and he said the cans were only $1 whether I bought all 10 or not.  This particular store also doubles coupons up to $1 every day.  I put 4 cans of soup back.  So, I bought 6 cans of soup and only paid for 4.  That means I walked out with 2 FREE cans of soup!

January 02, 2012

5 Money Savings Tips for Around the House

5 Money Savings Tips for Around the House

1.  Just one dryer sheet is designed to be used for up to 4 loads.  Armed with this knowledge I have cut my dryer sheet usage in half.  You can just toss a dryer sheet in with your load of laundry to dry and then reuse it a few times. 
What I do is cut each dryer sheet in half and then toss a half dryer sheet in with each load to dry.  (I do not reuse this dryer sheet, though I'm sure you could get some more life out of it).  I just use my heavy duty kitchen scissors and cut the sheets in half as soon as I open the dryer sheet box.  Simple as that!

2.  When drying clothes in your dryer it's best to do a continuous load one right after another.  Your dryer uses most of its energy initially heating up the dryer.  If you pop a load in right after one has just finished then you will save on energy in the long run.  However, this means not just doing one load of laundry every day or so, it means a day of laundry.

3.  Use heavy duty drapes or even tinfoil on the windows.  We have super heavy duty black out curtains from when we lived in Japan on all of our upstairs bedroom windows.  This helps keep the cold out in the winter and also the heat from the sun out during the summer.  This past summer our upstairs was dreadfully hot.  Our AC unit could not keep the upstairs cool in comparison to the downstairs.  The kids were roasting during nap time.  So, even though I love the sunshine in the house, I had to keep the kids black out curtains pulled during the daytime in their rooms.  My daughter is in the middle bedroom and her room was roasting.  I even resorted to an old trick we learned in Japan for reflecting the sun and hung up tinfoil on her windows.  It was not attractive at all, but it worked and she could take a nap without breaking a sweat. 

4.  Use a crock pot whenever possible instead of the stove.  Even the microwave, instead of the stove, can save a ton on energy costs.  (it also keeps your house cooler in the summer).  There are a ton of great crock pot recipes out there to make your life more simple at the end of the day for dinner, but it also saves a ton on energy costs.
Here is one of my favorite crock pot websites.

5.  Use your ceiling fans.  In the winter time set your fan to run in a clockwise direction to push heat from the ceiling down into the room.  In the summer set the fan to run the opposite direction to circulate the cool air in the room.  This can make the room feel as much as 8 degrees cooler in the summer.
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