Chicken Salad Love

My husband always tells me when I make food he likes, that I put some love into it.  I guess I put some serious love into my chicken salad because I make it all the time and every time, he acts like it’s the first time I made it for him.  I like to make things for the week when I think of it and chicken salad is just nice to have in the fridge for lunches or a snack.  I would encourage you to use what you think sounds good and I will say that I change out some of the ingredients from time to time….maybe that’s why Derrick always acts like it’s the first time I made it!!

The chicken you use for your chicken salad sets the tone of the recipe, so try to choose ingredients that will go well with the seasonings on your cooked chicken.  Sometimes I just use canned white chicken meat…in that case I’ll definitely stick with the staple ingredients and I may even add a little more spice.  This past time I used chicken that we grilled outside with a Mexican spice marinade.  In this instance, it’s nice to add some kind of pico de gallo mix, maybe some canned (washed) black beans and a little southwestern sour cream mix.  Or if you had Italian style chicken maybe you could add some flat leaf parsley, olives and pepperoncini.  Of course if you do any of these variations, I would use these things in place of some of the items listed below.  Let me know if you want additional details!   The staple recipe I tend to stick to…and the one that always gets me a million requests for because I make it for parties, is as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 chicken breasts or 2 large cans of white chicken breast
  • 1-2 small green apples (or honeycrisp) 
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 2 table spoons of dill relish
  • 1/2 cup good quality, reduced fat mayo
  • course ground salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. First chop up your chicken.  I cut the breasts into large chunks and then throw it in the food processor.  If you would like your chicken salad a little more chunky, you can cut it yourself.  I like my chicken well chopped.  Place chopped chicken in a large bowl.
  2. Cut red onion and apple into large chunks that are similar in size, then throw into the food processor as well for a good chop, then add this to the large bowl of chicken.  Note here – if I don’t have dill relish, I’ll add a few chunks of pickle here to get that taste.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and don’t take my measurements so seriously.  Start small with the salt, pepper and cayenne…then add more to your liking.  Do the same with the mayo, I usually try to use as little as possible to keep the fat down, oh and some of the brands that I like to use are Duke’s Reduced Fat or Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil.  If you’re looking to get this close to what I make, I do use a LOT of black pepper and probably more cayenne than you would think.  I like a nice kick!
  4. Blend together and serve it a million different ways:
  • For parties, I usually buy miniature croissants and green leaf lettuce – then put together adorable little sandwiches.
  • For small gatherings or an afternoon of snacking, I place it in a bowl alongside some wheat thins or ritz crackers and celery sticks.
  • For Derrick’s lunch, I either put it on some sandwich bread or in a small container with a baggy full of crackers.
  • It’s also yummy scooped on top of a  green salad

Use your imagination and whatever you have in your fridge, but this is a great thing to throw together and have for the week.  It will be my lunch today!

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Annaul Goal Assessment: Beginner Housewife & SAHM

You name it!  I’m getting back to it.  If you wondered, ‘hey – where’s she been? why isn’t she keeping up with that blog?’ well here’s your answer…..I’ve been trying to get back to it!  All of it!  As you may know, we just moved in about 8 weeks ago so I’ve been working on the house quite a bit, I’ve also been working on a schedule for my family and my most recent ‘back to it’ efforts have been focusing on working out again.  You can’t do everything right away and you can’t do it perfectly all the time, at least that’s what I keep trying to remind myself.

So now that I’m back to it and feeling good about the direction things are going, I thought it would be a good time to refresh my thoughts on the blog.  First, as a new stay at home mom or to use an older word: ‘homemaker’, I thought I would set some goals for myself.  In the corporate world we did this annually, assessed them mid year and evaluated at the end of the year.  I’m not sure I’ll having anyone to give me my ratings, but maybe as my faithful new readers, you can help with that.

For starters, I would like to center my goals around a concept.  The name I chose for my blog is ‘Timeless Homemaking’.  The word timeless in a dictionary is defined: referring or restricted to no particular time…eg, the timeless beauty of great music.  The word used in the sentence to reference music surely refers to music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or even some classics by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday or by MY standards, George Strait, Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffet…you get it.  Timeless would not refer to the once popular song called ‘I Think we’re Alone Now’…by….uh, what was her name again?  Tiffany something?  Or was it just Tiffany?  Either way, that was not timeless, that was very IN THE TIME….and now that time is gone and so is the song.  So, back to what I was saying.  I would like to make this way of life, this life I live and the way that I care for my family to be timeless.

Goal #1:  Put People First

I want to make sure that everything I’m doing is working towards making my family happy, healthy and loved.  So even though I may have some goals towards cleaning, cooking, working out, organizing, etc….if there comes a time when one of these other goals is causing someone in the family to feel neglected, I would like to be able to identify that and adjust so it doesn’t happen anymore.  My family is the whole reason I’m doing this ‘job’ so I want to be sure I make them happy, healthy and I want them to always know how much I love them.

Goal #2: Take Care of Myself

So this might sound like a very simple goal, but I think for a while now I haven’t been fully taking care of my own self.  If I can’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anyone else.  In taking care of myself, I will feel good, be happy and through that I will be able to accomplish the above goal much more successfully!  Within goal #2, I have some bullet points:

  • Eat healthier…you know they say that your diet makes up 75% of what you look like.  That’s huge….even if you worked out like a crazy person and just ate horribly, you wouldn’t likely see any of he efforts your making with that big 75% covering it all up.  When I worked, I ate out a lot more…I ate fast and I didn’t pay attention as much as I would have like to.  Now, I want to fix that!  I have a few years worth of damage to correct, so this is a big one.  I must change the way I look at my food!
  • Work out…..I used to always say that if I could stay at home instead of going to the office every day, I would be HOT.  Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only been 6 weeks ok?  I’m working on it!  To assist with this bullet point of the goal, my dearest friend has encouraged me to sign up for a bootcamp!  I know what you’re thinking, but this one is very different and exciting…and online!  It’s hosted by a woman who is also a mom and a personal trainer. She sets up all the work outs, provides great literature, demo videos and help via email & social media and so far I think it’s pretty fantastic.  Her name is Tina Reale and if you’re interested, you can check out her website:  http://www.tinareale.com/best-body-bootcamp/ I can’t wait to see how I feel at the end of this bootcamp – It’s only been a week, but so far I’m likin it!
  • Get some ‘me’ time….though I do love being with my son and my husband as much as possible, I also need some time to do things just for me.  I’ll say at least twice a week I need some time to do something just for me whether it’s a bubble bath, a pedicure, meeting with my girlfriends for a glass of wine…whatever, I just need to do something for myself that makes me happy!  And I shall!

Goal # 3:  Pay Attention to and Stay within the Budget

I’ll be honest, this is NOT my strong suit.  It never has been.  Though I was an actual Controller who dealt with money all day, every day…I did not and still do not do the finances for my household!  My husband does, God bless his soul!  I had no desire to look at spreadsheets all day at work and then come home and look at some more…and still, I prefer not to, thanks.  SOOO, as God as my witness (and the rest of you), I hereby declare staying within the budget my husband gives us a goal in my new job!  Lets start this one today shall we?  I’m not sure I’ve been doing this since my start date….in fact, I’m sure my husband can confirm I haven’t even asked what the budget is.  However, now I know it and now I do want to be sure to stick to it.  Getting off track with money is no fun, it causes stress & tension and it’s good for no one.  Besides, I really don’t want to go back to work yet….this goal is a biggie.

Goal # 4: Weekly Menu Planning

I absolutely love to cook!  And yet thinking of something to make for dinner can be so frustrating at times.  There have been those weeks when I go to the grocery store and I get so scatter-brained just thinking of all the things I MIGHT cook that week.  Then I inevitably forget an ingredient or two for the dish I was thinking about and I have to make two more trips, plus all that lack of organization leads to going over the grocery budget!  SO, to get this under control I have decided to put together a spreadsheet….yes, I still need a few spreadsheets in my life, to do my weekly menu planning.  This will happen each week on the same day of the week….I’ll get back to this in a separate post because it’s just so much fun!  Plus, you may want to see my ma spreadsheet skills.

Goal #5: Keep a Cleaning Schedule

As I mentioned before, keeping my house clean is super important to me.  I know it’s not at the top of everyone’s list, but for me, having a clean home makes me feel good.  There is a certain since of pride to this accomplishment and luckily, my husband and I both feel this way and to top it all off, HE HELPS!  The cleaning schedule will help us break things up into manageable time frames and make it so that our house always feels clean and comfy.  This goal will be the one I shine with….just call me Monica Geller.

Goal # 6: Live Life through God

Last, but most definitely not least I want to be sure that my family and I put God in our lives through everything we do.  Prayer belongs in every goal mentioned above and our relationship with God needs to grow stronger each day.  We are not perfect but this is a goal I want to work on just as hard, if not harder than the rest.

Since I’m so late to posting this, I’m going to get it going and I’ll let you know how all these goals are coming!  Happy Monday, and happy July!

 

Hot Dog Y’all!

I think it’s been 5 weeks that I’ve been home with Ben now and while he’s napping, I thought I’d sit down to note something. From the beginning of my stay home venture, I was very nervous about keeping my son entertained.  He went from being at the sitter’s house with 5 other children, to home with mom, and JUST mom!  Well, I guess if we’re counting there are two large dogs hanging around here too…and believe it or not, they serve as pretty swell play mates!  Anyway, in my nervousness I started a bit of a habit by turning on the TV and pretty much leaving it on all day.  It’s usually tuned into Disney or Disney Junior, and let me just say that prior to being a mom…or really, prior to being a stay at home mom, I kind of-maybe a little bit-sort of…hated Disney.  That’s right I said it.  I couldn’t stand the mouse and all his friends taking over the world in the form of bad clothing apparel, tote bags, key chains, toys, tv, movies, theme parks and even cruise ships.  Yuck.  I don’t like rodents even if they wear clothes and talk.  However, since these changes have been made in my life and I’m looking forward to each 15 minute window of sitting time, mommy time, etc….this mouse is growing on me.

I had no idea how much the mouse had evolved.  First of all, in HD he’s much cooler looking and so are the rest of his friends.  He has a magical club house that pops up out of the ground and it has all sorts of cool gadgets inside.  Also, I’m not sure of the size but I’m pretty sure the club house is on some substantial acreage.  He has a lake and a park complete with small mountains, roads AND interesting shaped foliage.  Plus there’s this little machine-type guy now named “Toodles”….at least I think he’s a machine.  At the beginning of every show Mickey and Toodles get together and show us four different mouse-k-tools which can be used to help in the day’s mystery, puzzle or adventure.  Fascinating.  Mickey and his friends go about their day and whenever they come across a problem they just yell, “Oh Toooodles!”, then that little machine guy comes racing down (he either flies or rides up on some monster truck tires) and then he shows all the tools he has and Mickey chooses one, then that tool fixes the problem, they do it 3 more times and then all is well in Mouse land again!  I mean, some days I do still wish Mickey would look at his tool options and tell Toodles that none of this crap is going to work.  I once saw Mickey have to choose oversized building blocks to get to the top a tree….I mean come on Toodles – give the mouse a ladder!  Ok, but back to all the neato changes, the best of the best, the crème de la crème of the new mouse….is this thing called the Mouse-k-dance, AKA the Hot Dog Dance!!

People, when my little boy hears that song start up….he starts bending his little knees, bobbing his little head, waving his toys around…I mean, he could not be more excited!  It gives me some of the best laughs of the day and for just those few minutes, he is fully entertained and happy!  In case you’ve never seen this marvelous dance, I have conveniently posted the following for your listening pleasure…

So far the only bad thing I can think of that comes from this new mouse and his song, is the curse of me singing it continuously throughout any given day regardless of whether my son is around or not!  As a matter of fact, what inspired me to tell you about it was when just about an hour ago, I was in the kitchen baking cookies (yes, from scratch and yes, I’m domestic) while watching Sex and the City (yes I’m still me and yes I still love every re-run and movie and NO, I don’t care if my one year old is in the room with me while I watch it) when during a commercial break, while Ben was taking a nap, I just burst out loud into the chorus of the Hot Dog Dance.  SAD….but true.  Yes, sometimes I sing it to Ben to get him to smile or dance or laugh…and then all the sudden there I am, alone watching adult television when I burst into hot-doggin.

Don’t judge me.  If you watch it enough times, you might find yourself singing the same thing….even if you won’t admit it.  Happy Friday people – HOT DOG!

Thoughts for the Week

I want to try a few different things here now that I have the opportunity to write/blog.  I want to write about all sorts of things as we go along, mainly my experiences as a new stay at home mom and how I’m adjusting…I’m certain this will make for great entertainment, but I also want to share a little bit of my heart now and again so my ‘Thoughts for the Week’ idea seems to be a great way to do that.  Hopefully I have enough ‘thoughts’ each week that mean enough to share with you, but I’m certain that this week I’ve got them down.

This week, my baby sister Danielle who is in Ghana volunteering at a local hospital turned 21.  Unlike me, she spent her 21st birthday half way across the world offering her time to help those that need it the most.  Lets not get too silly here, she did wake up to a fantastic surprise breakfast complete with birthday mimosa’s, but I don’t know a single other person that spent their 21st birthday in a third world country working on the trauma unit of the local hospital.  She comes home in three days!  I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful sister who, even at 12 years younger than me is a role model in my life.  Will I ever go to Africa and volunteer my non-existent medical skills?  No….but I can take notice and get inspired.  Just before Danielle left for Ghana she was here for a couple of nights with us and we had a ton of fun getting pedicures, watching senseless TV, getting ice cream and just hangin out….I was washing some dishes and I was complaining about my water faucet.  The water pressure was horrible!!  Full blast was like a drizzle, fizzle, fo shizzle….so annoying and while we’re on the topic – faucet was replaced this week…anywho, I was complaining and she said jokingly…”you people and your first world problems”.  I laughed and went about my dishwashing that took triple the time, but in the back of my mind I did think about all the people in the world faced with so much more than me.

She has strawberry hair from nowhere

and green eyes like mine

Things weren’t always easy for her

but she smiles all the time

No one told her how to be a lady

though she did it anyway

Her soul is genuine, her faith is strong

and I pray for her every day.

Baby sister, as you go on through life

take what you saw here and there,

never forget the moments that shook you

no one can fill the hole in your heart she left

but I will keep trying each chance I get.

You got his faith, his courage and his spirit

your soul is full of love and your mind with brilliance

joy and honesty are what he gave us

a heart so pure, a love so true

no one else has a sister like you.

It’s All New to Me!

Welcome to my personal release as I, former corporate girl of fantastic financial job, step into the new shoes of being a stay at home mom, wife and happy homemaker!  I am so excited, I can’t even begin to tell you!  My last day at work was over a month ago now, but we only got the computer set up a week ago so there’s my first excuse for delays.  Hopefully I won’t have to come up with too many more of those.  Ok, so far since I’ve been home with my adorable little man we have come up with a schedule for at least the first half of the day.  I’m still working on the second half, but I’m certain it will come to me.  Any ideas of fun playtime inside to avoid the heat, please let me know!

Putting together a house takes a while when you have as much stuff as we do, so we’re still working on that and in my spare moments I’m trying to catch up to everyone else in the amazing world of things like Pinterest, twitter, groupons, twitter and coupons!  I’m certain I’ll have a blast navigating things of that nature and making them all work for our family.  It’s truly amazing what you can find out there now!  Fabulous recipes, work-outs, decorating tips, organization tips, kid stuff and much more.  Hopefully I can add to the pile with some useful things adapted in my own life…..we can work it all out together.

Since I’ve been home, there have already been many little moments that could make you laugh.  I’ll try not to back track too much, but one of the things I picked up in the first week was making my own bread.  It was actually a very cool experience and started just because I had forgotten to pick up bread when I went to the grocery store.  Ok, most people would probably just trip over there and pick up a loaf, but since I’m still getting comfortable taking Ben (that’s my adorable little guy) out and about by myself, I decided to make use of the flour in my canister and my food processing dough blade.  I made two small loaves of regular white sandwich bread successfully to kick things off so then I got a little ambitious.  I had a couple of girlfriends coming over for wine – you know who you are – and so I decided that I need a ‘Melissa-ism’ on the table.  (I’ll refer to these from time to time, but so you know, it’s what I’m know for…friends know I LOVE to make a signature cocktail or a fantastic new recipe, just something personal to show off my mad hostess skills. Don’t laugh at me, you know you love it.)  Anywho, the Melissa-ism goal for this wine night was a fresh, homemade loaf of olive-rosemary bread that I could serve with hummus.  There were all sorts of instructions, and true to form I changed some of the recipe and some of the small steps to make it all my own.  However, I found out that one of my brilliant ideas wasn’t quite so brilliant.  The instructions suggested that prior to placing the bread in the oven for baking, you insert a SMALL cast iron skillet onto the bottom rack of the oven and allow it to preheat with the oven.  Then right before you put the bread in, you pour some water into the skillet, I assume this was to have some moisture in the oven for your loaf.  Brilliant moment….I do not have a SMALL cast iron skillet, but I do have a very large one.  I thought that it might be too big and like, block some heat from the bottom of the oven so I didn’t want to use it (dumba$$).  Quick sub – glass baking dish.  Ok, so right about now, I would guess that 75% of you are already laughing at me because you know exactly what’s about to happen.  Can I just ask….when did you people learn this little phenomenon?  I mean, while I was in business classes were the rest of you learning basic skills of glass, heat & water 101?  I wish someone would have invited me to that class.  For the other 25% of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the glass baking dish heated up in the oven, I was ready to inset bread, stop, pour water into glass dish…..POW-CRASH-POP-@#$%!!!  Yes, glass exploded all over my oven and floor like a bomb went off.  My 1 year old son standing about 6 feet from the scene with Thomas the Train and no shoes.  So anyway, I had to scoop him up into the play-yard and try to clean up really hot glass from the floor and the oven, keep the stupid oven on so that I could bake my stupid Melissa-ism in time for wine night and pray that the lack of moisture in the oven wouldn’t ruin my precious olive loaf.  I ended up placing the large cast iron skillet in the oven, which isn’t ‘seasoned’ yet, so that just created smoke.  I think it might have given the bread a nice smoky flavor, so we’ll call that a win.

All worked out.  My olive loaf was a success and it was quite tasty with the hummus!  Plus, I got a ridiculous story to tell you about.  If anyone is interested in my slightly modified recipe (original recipe from Charles van Over – Cuisinart cookbook) for this super delicious olive-rosemary loaf….here it is!  Happy baking….oh and please, make YOUR olive loaf without the glass shards.

You will need:

  • 2 – 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 – 1/4 cups wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast (I think the one I used said ‘rapid rise’ or something like that)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (extra virgin or regular, whatever you have)
  • 1 – 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup olives, coarsely chopped (use what you like, I went to the olive bar at the store and got a mix of greek, green, black, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon or a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • flour for dusting

Directions:

I used my Cuisinart food processor, but if you don’t have one I’m sure you could use a stand mixer or some other mixing method.  Combine flour, salt, yeast and olive oil in processor using your DOUGH blade.  With machine on dough setting, slowly add water into the feed tube.  Run the processor till the dough forms a ball on one side of the bowl.  Remove the dough, place in a large ungreased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  This can sit in room temperature for about 2 hours to rise. 

Preheat oven to 475*, place a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack.  Make sure your top rack is about 8 inches from the top.  Oh and DON’T use glass instead of cast iron.

After the two hours of dough rising fun, flour a work surface and work your dough into a square.  Place chopped olives & rosemary in the middle of the dough, then fold over and knead it all together, lightly.  My dough was folded over and over itself as to create a nice little swirl of olives in the slices.  After kneading, form the dough into a nice round ball.  Place a clean towel in a large bowl and lightly flour the towel, place the loaf in the towel and dust flour lightly on top.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour a room temperature.

Place dough in a round baking pan, sprinkle with flour and then use a serrated knife to score the top.  I did the hashtag shape (#), but you could do a star or just 3 clean lines or whatever.  Place a sprigs of rosemary on top for garnish.  Carefully pour about a cup of warm water into your cast iron skillet, then place your bread on the top rack.  Reduce heat immediately to 450*.  Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 425*.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes until crust is brown.  Internal temperature of the bread should be about 205-210* with an instant read thermometer.  Bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom….don’t overthink it.  Remove bread from pan, place on cooling rack for a bit, then slice it up and serve with hummus or rosemary butter or olive tapenade…..and of course with lots of wine!

Enjoy with pals!  Next time I’ll take a picture of the Melissa-ism for you 🙂