Crock pot Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve been working on a good chicken Cacciatore recipe for the crock pot for some time and by George, I’ve finally done it!

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs chicken on the bone
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 8-10 oz crimini mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (smashed or pressed)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp salt (less if you’re watching your salt intake)
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp capers (drained)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (optional)

 

Directions:

Put onions and bell peppers in the crock pot first. I used a mix of red and yellow bell peppers (I keep them on hand in the freezer), but green would work, too. Then the chicken. You might want to pull the skin off, personally I leave it on so that it adds some more flavor. Spread the garlic and mushrooms over the chicken. Mix the remaining ingredients together then pour over the chicken and mushrooms.

Cook on high 4+ hours, low 7+ hours.

Take the lid off, stir and keep the lid off for 15-20 minutes before you’re ready to eat to let the sauce thicken up. I did this while I was cooking the pasta. Serve over pasta, rice or mashed potatoes.

Posted in Recipes

Turn, baby, turn

Had my 34 week appointment today and Max is in the breech position. I don’t remember if this happened or not with Milan. I kind of remember it, but I kind of remember that he turned before it was an issue.

So I started doing yoga today. I really should’ve been doing it all along on a regular basis like I did when I was pregnant with Milan. But of course, I made excuses and life got in the way. Literally about 5 minutes after I did the yoga, Max started moving up a storm. Whether or not it works, I’m glad I’m doing it because at least I feel like I am doing something proactive to help him turn!

Posted in Personal

Chinese New Year Dragon toilet paper roll craft

While trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a craft for today, I came across a really cool snake craft at Easy Preschool Crafts for Kids that uses toilet paper rolls.  Since yesterday was the Chinese New Year and its the year of the Dragon, I thought I’d adapt it to make a fun Chinese dragon.

Materials:

  • 4 toilet paper rolls (or however many you want to make it as long as you want)
  • Paint
  • Brush for the paint – although finger paint works just as well, too
  • Hole punch
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • String, yarn, rope, etc.

Instructions:

After preparing your work surface for the activities, cut the toilet paper rolls in half.  Let your toddler or preschooler paint all but one of the halves of toilet paper rolls.  Set them aside to dry.

While your youngster is working away, you can get everything ready for the dragon head. Of course, you can do it ahead of time, but that would require actually thinking and preparing, which I usually don’t do on crafty days.

Cut the teeth.  I made a rectangle first that was a little larger than the width of the toilet paper roll and about 1/2 of the height of the paper roll.  Then I cut the rectangle in half using a zig zag pattern to make the teeth.

Tape the teeth on to the roll.

 

 

Cut the head out of any color you wish.  My son chose red. I made a very rough template (see picture to the left). Its basically two hearts along a rectangle.  The rectangle should be the size of your cut piece of toilet paper.

You’ll want the hearts to come to a pretty narrow point so that the piece wraps around the toilet paper roll and the eyes and nose stand up.

Next you’ll want to tape the head onto the roll.  Put a piece of tape on one “strap” of the head piece, line up the top of the head with the center of the teeth, then tape the piece in place. Tape down the other side.

The eyes and nose are not perfectly lined up and my son definitely doesn’t care!

 

Cut out 2 circles for the whites of the eyes, 2 smaller black circles for the pupils and 2 small black circles for the nostrils.

I cut long strips of construction paper and let my son practice his scissor skills by cutting the strips shorter. Of course, you can do the strips yourself.

Glue the eyes and nostrils in place. I let my son do the gluing. Next I let him dip each strip of paper into the glue to get the end wet. While I held the head, he glued the strip in the hole (I adjusted each strip as needed – but only to make sure that the strip wasn’t too far in). Let the glue dry (this is when we ate lunch). I took this time to check and make sure there weren’t too many globs of paint on the toilet paper rolls, if there was I just flattened them out.

After the glue was dry, I put some tape on the back of the strips to make sure they stood up straight. By this time, the paint was dry, too.

Next it was time to punch holes. Punch two holes on the side of the dragon’s head in the back. Then punch 2 holes in each side of the other toilet paper rolls, except the tail piece (that only needs 1 hole on each side at the front). You’ll want the 2 holes to be lined up.

Then you string the pieces together. I didn’t have any yarn or string, but I did have some twine… it worked just as well. Once it was strung together, we folded in the last piece to make it look more like a tail.

P.S.  My son was dressed up as a dragon while we did this!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Craft

Easy Yellow Bird Toddler Craft

This was a super fun and easy craft to do.

Instructions:

  • Give your child a piece of colored tissue to rip up in to little pieces. You can also practice scissor skills at this time, too!
  • Meanwhile, cut out a bird like shape from a paper plate (or construction paper).  Ours will be sitting on a branch of the tree on the wall in his bedroom, so we needed something a little sturdier than construction paper.
  • Next, mix 2 parts glue to 1 part paint.  We used yellow, but you can make red, blue or any color birds you want!
  • Now let your toddler paint the glue mixture on to the bird cut out.  You might need to tape the back of the bird to the craft table so that it doesn’t move around too much.
  • Then let your toddler glue the pieces of ripped tissue paper on to the bird.
  • Meanwhile, you can cut out the beak, legs, a little white circle and an even smaller black circle for the eyes.
  • Once your toddler is done gluing pieces of tissue, let your toddler glue the eye, beak and feet.
  • Voila!  A cute little bird!

I love these tissue paper crafts.  My son loves squeezing the glue bottle and painting and ripping and cutting – so any craft that can combine all of these things is a winner in our house!

Little yellow bird

My son is so proud

Posted in Craft

Update: I’m in the acceptance stage

Today was my grandpa’s funeral. I was not able to go.. it just didn’t make sense financially. We’re pretty strapped right now and airfare for me and my son would literally wipe out the little bit of savings that we have. I’d need to take my son because my husband works and I don’t have any family around that I could leave him with.

But to be honest, I was okay with not going. Funerals are for the living, the dead have already passed on. And for me to go would mean someone would have to drive a couple of hours to pick me up from the airport, we’d have to figure out somewhere for me to stay… and really, I don’t know how much support I could give to anyone since I’d be chasing after a toddler. And not to mention, I’m pregnant.

However, reading a post from my cousin today about grandpa’s funeral, I was truly touched. I realized that I had moved on and was now able to appreciate how much grandpa loved all of us. He was an incredible man. My cousin wrote it really well today, so I’m going to quote him:

“Attended funeral services for my grandpa today. The world has lost a great man. A WWII and Korean war veteran. This retired Marine of twenty years continued working for twenty more for Lockheed Martin. He finished up with more than ten thousand volunteer hours with the Maryland State Police. He set many standards and touched many more lives. I will miss you, Grandpa.”

 

Posted in Personal

My grandpa passed away

I got the call last night that my grandpa passed away. Both my aunt and my uncle were able to be there with him, along with his wife. I’m glad he was surrounded by people that loved him when he passed on.

On a brighter note, my other grandpa’s dr. appointment with the oncologist went pretty well today. He has to go for a test sometime soon to see if he’ll be able to make it through a surgery. If he can’t, the good news is that thyroid cancer is a slow growing cancer and he’ll still have a long time to live with it.

But I’m still reeling from the loss of my grandpa. I’m feeling so guilty right now. I can’t help but recount all the times that I didn’t call him or didn’t write him. Its such a simple thing to do but yet I didn’t. I hope that my grandpa knew how much I loved him, just like I knew how much he loved me.

I’m definitely in the “anger” stage of grief. I keep finding myself thinking selfish, unkind, unwarranted thoughts whenever I see one of my cousins posting “their” loss on Facebook. I keep thinking “they didn’t love grandpa as much as I did,” “they barely even talked to him, why would they be grieving,” etc. Of course, immediately after the thought, I feel guilty for even having it. I couldn’t understand why all the loving thoughts of my grandpa were annoying me, but then I remembered that this stage is a natural part of grieving.

I experienced a CRAZY anger stage when I found out how bad my grandma’s dementia had gotten (totally flipped out on someone that slighted me). That was the beginning of my mourning for my grandma. I don’t really know when I finally stopped the anger stage when my mom died.  I kept bouncing around from denial, anger, bargaining and depression for many years. At least I now have experience in dealing with grief, so I’m guessing it won’t be so bad this time around.

Although, I don’t think you ever truly get over the loss of someone that was close to you. I know I’m not “over” losing my mom, I just have learned how to live with not having her in my life. I’m not “over” losing my grandma either.. just have gotten better about not breaking down whenever I think about her. I know that I am already closer to accepting that my grandpa is gone. In fact, I think because of my past experiences I’ve already gone through that stage, I just have the other ones to work through.

P.S. If any of my cousins are reading this, please know that I love you… I just wanted to share my feelings here in case someone else that stumbles upon this post has similar feelings. Its really comforting to know that you aren’t alone when you’re feeling down.

Posted in Personal

Bad news about both grandpas in same month

I just recently found out that my grandpa on my dad’s side has got thyroid cancer.  Although its usually easily treatable through surgery, my grandpa’s most recent surgery (he fell and broke his thigh) was not a very good experience.  He almost died on the table, so they had to bring him out of the anesthesia… which meant he actually woke up during his surgery.  He said it was the most painful thing he has ever experienced in his life.  So now with the cancer, he doesn’t want them to resuscitate him when he goes into surgery… which will probably be next month or so.

Now today I found out that my grandpa on my mom’s side is dying. He has definitely been going downhill over the last year or so, but his kidneys just shut down.  Which means he only has about a week or two left.

I know that it is life’s natural progression to have the older people die before the younger. I knew that my grandpa’s were going to pass at some point. But I just got back in touch with my grandpa on my dad’s side in the last couple of years. I missed a lot of years of getting to spend some time with my grandma. It was my fault. I couldn’t deal with my dad, so I separated myself from my grandparents, too. I kept thinking, I’ll talk to them next week or next month. And then I got news that my grandma died. I regret that wasted time. It is impossible to get back.

And now, I’m facing a kind of similar situation with my grandpa (mom). Over the past couple of years, I’ve called less and less and my life got busier and busier. And most of the time when I did call, I’d get an answering machine. I never got a response back. I’ve had the same number for close to 10 years now, but I don’t know if I have ever gotten a phone call from my grandpa and his new wife (my grandma died about 10 years ago and my grandpa remarried several years back). I understand why my grandpa doesn’t call… he’s never been a phone person. When my grandma was alive, he’d answer the phone and before I could even say “hi grandpa” he’d say “here’s your grandmother” and hand the phone to her. Its not that he’s not personable, he just is hard of hearing and I think to him the phone was always more annoying rather than useful.

I used to send flowers every week to my grandparents. But a couple of years ago, my grandpa’s wife asked me not to send them any more. I’ve never been good about writing letters and sending cards… I start them, but I never finish them and thus never get sent out.  Don’t believe me? Open up my card box and you’ll see at least 10 cards filled out and never sent. I’m an eternal procrastinator. I tried calling my grandpa every week, or as close to every week but sometimes I’d forget, or it’d be too late, or I’d get the answering machine or… or… or. After awhile, I just kind of stopped calling.

But I never stopped loving him or thinking of him. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I’m not reminded of my grandpa. I grew up about a mile from them and I saw them at least once a week.  Some weeks, a lot more! So my entire childhood is filled of memories of my grandparents. My mom was a single mom, so besides being my grandpa, he was also my father figure.

Now that I know his time is limited I feel so at a loss. I don’t know how to let him know how much he means to me. In some ways, this harder than when I lost my grandma because my grandma was sick for many, many years before she died. When she finally passed, I actually felt a sense of relief for her… and I still had my grandpa.

But now, I feel like the last of my immediate family is going. I know I have my husband and my son, but they don’t know my past, the inside jokes nor do they share the memories of my childhood. I don’t have any brothers or sisters to share my feelings, memories,etc with. My childhood memories only remain in my mind, now.

Posted in Personal

Struggling with the Christmas budget

I know, with certainty, that I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas when I was 2.  In fact, before the age of 5, I really can’t remember what I got on Christmas and I have a really good memory!  I’m sure that I got fun things, but what exactly I have no clue.

So it makes no logical sense that I’m worrying about what I’m going to get my son for Christmas.  He’s 2.  The chances of him remembering the exact items that Santa brings him is slim-to-none.  And if he’s got a memory like my husband that chances are absolutely ZERO!  Yet, I find myself surfing the internet and crying because I can’t get him what I want to get him.

And its not just my son’s gift, I’m trying to figure out the budget for my husband and I and it keeps getting trimmed down with each passing day. I know my husband doesn’t really care (he’s only been celebrating Christmas since we’ve been together), so he doesn’t have any preconceived notions to deal with. I know that he’s going to love me no matter what he gets underneath the Christmas tree.

I just feel like that I’m not providing for my family.  Its silly, I know.  Especially since my favorite memories of Christmas time are getting the house ready (my mom would really deck the house out), making cookies with my grandma and eating her peanut butter fudge when the family got together on Christmas Eve every year. Its the people that make the holiday not the gifts.

I am completely grateful that my husband still has a job, that I’m able to stay home with our son, that we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. I definitely don’t take that for granted. I also know that there are a lot of people out of work that would gladly trade with me right now.

When Christmas morning rolls around and there are presents under the tree, my son is going to scream with glee! So shake it off girl… not getting your son a fancy, shmancy gift is not the end of the world! Focus on the cute, little smiling face that will be shrieking with joy on December 25th – regardless!

Posted in Personal

Easy Broccoli turkey leftovers

Last week, I cooked a turkey… not for Thanksgiving, but because there were so many amazing sales on turkey I just couldn’t resist.  Anyways, needless to say, we had plenty of leftovers and I had to come up with some meal ideas. This was a last minute meal plan (hubby called and said he was 10 minutes away) that I threw together. Luckily, I kept the turkey stock and when I made my Cream of Mushroom soup for the green beans (I made a triple batch so there was plenty of leftovers and omitted the chicken from the recipe). Ended up being one of the best leftover dishes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rinsed, uncooked rice
  • 1½ cups of turkey stock (chicken stock will do, too)
  • 1½ cups of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 package of frozen broccoli (chopped)
  • Left over turkey (we had about 2 cups of cut up turkey)

Directions:

Add rice, stock (if you don’t have the full 2 cups, you can use water to substitute) and mushroom soup to pot, bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the broccoli cook for another 10 minutes.  Add the turkey and cook for another 5 minutes so that the turkey gets heated up thoroughly.

NOTE:  If you are using broccoli florets, they will take longer to cook then chopped broccoli, so you can put it in pretty close to the beginning if you like your broccoli to be soft. If you like your broccoli to be a little crunchy,  then I’d wait till about 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Posted in Recipes

Make your own gravy

Making your own gravy is really easy, especially if you’re roasting a turkey or cooking a chicken in a crock pot.  You see the key is to have lots of fresh yummy stock.  This recipe uses the giblets, but if you don’t have them (for example, you’re making gravy from stock you have frozen) just skip that part.  The giblets do add a richer flavor, but gravy from stock is still really yummy.  You can make gravy from beef stock, too.

Ingredients:

  • Giblets from your bird & about 1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 1+ cup stock
  • 1+ tablespoon flour (regular, whole wheat, oatmeal, garbanzo bean or pancake mix are all options)
  • Extra stock or milk as needed

Directions:

(Optional giblets) Put the giblets in a small pot and put just enough water to cover the giblets.  Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove giblets from pot and discard.

Add 1 cup of stock and bring to a simmer (add 1/4 cup of water or extra stock if not starting with giblets).  Carefully remove about 1/4 cup of hot stock and put in a heat proof bowl.  Add flour and whisk (using a fork is good, too) until lumps are gone.  This will make a kind of paste.

Put the paste back into the pot, whisking until blended well.  The gravy will thicken as it cools, so you’ll want the gravy to be in a liquid state at this point.  If the gravy has gotten thick, you can add more stock if you have it until its the right consistency.  If you ran out of stock, you can add milk.  Some people prefer to add milk and make a milk gravy.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

Posted in Recipes