March 28, 2012

This Week In Food...Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu and Mexican Stuffed Shells Were Both Winners!

Looks like I went two for two with new recipes last week! Both the Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu and the Mexican Stuffed Shells were winners with Rolland and Portia, so you can't beat that! Guess that means the recipes should be shared! So here they are...

Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (I used low fat)
1 c. milk
4 ozs sliced ham
4 ozs sliced swiss cheese
1 8 oz pkg herbed, dry bread stuffing mix (like Stovetop)
1/4 c. butter, melted

Mix together the cream of chicken soup and milk in small bowl. Pour enough of the soup into your crockpot to cover the bottom. Layer chicken breasts over the sauce. Cover with slices of ham and then swiss cheese. Pour the remaining soup over the layers, moving around to distribute. Sprinkle the stuffing on top and drizzle butter over stuffing. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hrs or 2-3 hrs on high. (Amy's Notes: I used four chicken breast halves and simply placed a slice of ham and a slice of cheese ontop of each one, then kept the other ingredient amounts the same, and it came out perfect.)

Mexican Stuffed Shells

1 lb. ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 pkg low-sodium taco seasoning (I used regular taco seasoning)
4 oz. cream cheese
14-16 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 c. salsa
1 c. taco sauce (This is a smooth, tomato based sauce found in the Mexican section)
1 c. cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 c. monterey jack cheese (I used 1 c. Mexican Blend shredded cheese)
3 green onions (I omitted these)
Sour cream to top

Preheat oven to 350°. In a frying pan cook ground beef; add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions.  Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Blend well. Set aside and cool completely.  While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to directions; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board/baking sheet so that they don’t stick together. Pour salsa on bottom of 9×13 baking dish.  Stuff each shell with the meat mixture. Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up. Cover shells with taco sauce.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes, with the foil removed.  Top with any condiments you’d like (green onions, black olives, etc.) Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa.

Both of these were found via Pinterest. The Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu came from chef-in-training.com. And the Mexican Stuffed Shells came from thewaytohisheart.wordpress.com.

As for this week...we are on vacation, so no cooking for me! Though I will tell you that I enjoyed a lovely Penfolds Shiraz-Cab blend last night that I would definitely recommend if you're a red wine lover. Also, since we grilled out here the other night and Spring is asparagus season, might I suggest you get yourself a nice bunch of asparagus, drizzle it with a little olive oil, shake on some salt and pepper and grill it...sooooo good! (For ease on the grill, use the top tray of your broiler pan right on the grill!)

I'll be back next week with a new menu. Until then, happy eating!

March 20, 2012

She's Crafty...The "I Love You Because" Frame

Welcome to my She's Crafty series...this is the first of many posts that will follow my exploits into the realm of crafting as I tap into (what has sadly become) my latent creative side. Oh yeah, I'm pretty psyched about this! I am starting off with simple projects...I don't want to sprain anything...then I'll up the ante and hope for the best. And what better motivation to kick this off than Valentine's Day! First, here's the story...

As you know, one of my New Me Resolutions is to focus on my creativity (in this case, my craftivity). Well, another Me Resolution (a "Mesolution"??) is to refocus on my relationship with my husband. Those of you with kids likely know that when you have a baby things temporarily go completely cuckoo. And it's only as things calm down, after a many months, that you can begin to put your normal life back together. For me, at least, part of that means that once the baby is sleeping thru the night I can start to refocus on my relationship with my husband (Hello again, date night, my dear old friend!).

So, here's a craft that nailed two Mesolutions with one shot: the "I Love You Because" frame. It's crafty and it was a gift for Rolland for Valentine's Day...a gift that reminds me every day to let him know I appreciate him and all the things he does for us, big and small.



I got the original idea for this from something I saw on Pinterest last year, but I made some tweaks to make it my own-- I decided a good place to hang this "love message board" was across from our door to the garage...a place we look at everyday when we come into and leave our house. This seemed like an easy place to leave messages for my husband. It also seemed like a good place to put our keys. So I modified the original idea to make it a message board and key hook.

It took a little time and planning to get all the materials together (only because I have to do that while juggling two little ones), but once I had everything it only took a few minutes to put together...so easy (perfect for my first craft)!

Here's what you need:
- An 8x10 frame, made of wood if you plan to add hooks like I did; I found mine at Target
- Screw-in hooks, I used three (one for each of us and one for a guest), but you can do whatever number you want
- Fun background paper, I found some cool scrapbooking paper at JoAnn's and bought a few so I can change it up from time-to-time
- Dry erase marker(s)
- Some kind of velcro to keep the marker attached to the frame, I used Command damage-free hanging frame stabilizer strips (cheap and worked like a charm)
- A drill with appropriate bit size

And here's what you do with it:
I measured off three equally-spaced spots across the bottom of the picture frame to mark where I wanted the hooks to go, then drilled three holes slightly smaller than my screw-in hooks using a 3/8 inch drill bit on my power drill. I then screwed the hooks into the holes until their bases were flush with the frame and the hooks faced upright. Then I cut down the scrapbook paper to fit inside the 8x10 frame, used my computer and printer to print out the phrase "I love you because" on it, and inserted the paper into the frame. I then attached the frame stabilizer strips, one to the side of the frame and the other to the side of the dry-erase marker. I put a small picture-hanging nail in the wall across from our door to the garage, and, viola! A place to put our keys and share the love.

Here's what you end up with:
It's cute, right? And functional. We now hang our keys there every day and I regularly leave appreciation messages for my husband (and sometimes he leaves one for me). It can be anything really...earlier this week "I loved him because" he cleaned the bathrooms...when I took this photo it was because he'd given me backscratchies the night before...today it's because he goes to work everyday and brings home the bacon...last week it was because he has a nice butt (he does). It simply forces me to remember not only to appreciate him, but to let him know that I do. And that's a good thing for us. That, and date night. And hugs and kisses. And netflix. And wine.

Now, go get crafty with yourself.

March 19, 2012

This Week In Food...The Baked Chicken Taquitos Rocked!

First, an update from last week's food post...the Baked Chicken Taquitos were the new recipe winner for the week! They were very easy and really good...they even reheated well in the toaster oven for lunch a couple days later. Definitely good enough to share, so here's the recipe:

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
3 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. green salsa
1 tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half lime)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp sliced green onions
2 c. shredded or diced cooked chicken
1 c. shredded Mexican flavored cheese
10-12 small flour tortillas (I used 100% whole wheat tortillas, which worked great)
kosher salt
cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. In large bowl mix the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic. Once combined add the cilantro and green onions. Then stir in the chicken and cheese. Mix thoroughly. The tortillas need to be soft enough to roll; if yours are fresh you don't need to do anything; if they've been refrigerated, warm them in the microwave for a few second first to make them more pliable. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla as tight as you can and place seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat until mixture is gone. Make sure taquitos are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Bake for 15-20 mins. or until crisp and golden. Serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

I got this recipe, via Pinterest, off the http://www.chef-in-training.com/ blog.

Unfortunately, the zucchini bites, another new recipe last week, were just okay. I probably won't make them again. But the Creamy Crockpot Chicken Alfredo was good. It was very easy and both Rolland and Portia liked it and it made good leftovers. It doesn't really taste anything like alfredo sauce, but it's still creamy goodness. You can find that recipe at smashedpeasandcarrots.blogspot.com or on Pinterest or ask me and I'll post it. I'm also adding a picture of the flatbread pizzas from last week...kinda like a salad on a pizza, but oh-so-good!

This week is a short week for us, cooking wise. I still have something from last week's menu to make tonight. And since we leave on vacation this weekend, I'll only be cooking thru Thursday. So that means just three dishes on the menu for this week. And here they are:

- Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu with VTBD (Veggie-to-be-determined, based on what looks good at the store tomorrow)
- Mexican Stuffed Shells and Salad
- Spaghetti with Creamy Tomato Sauce and Salad

The Chicken Cordon Bleu and Mexican Stuffed Shells are both new recipes for me and both were found on Pinterest. So I'll let you know how they turn out! In the meantime...

Happy eating!

March 11, 2012

This Week In Food: Grape, Bleu Cheese & Walnut Pizzas and Sausage & Vegetable Pile-Up

This Week In Food is what I hope will become a regular posting in which I share my menu plans for the week and a few of the recipes for what I'll be making. I'm hoping this will prove useful for you as you try to figure out the age old question, "What's for dinner?" My goal for weekday dinners is that they're relatively healthy, tasty and easy.

So, here's my process: Typically on the night before I plan to do my weekly grocery shopping trip, I sit down and look at our calendar for the week so I can figure out how many meals I need to cook (versus eating out or the super quick-and-easy meals I do when either my husband or I have something going on in the evening, or when he is traveling for work). Then I survey my husband to see if he's craving anything or has any special needs (like when he was in his weight loss challenge at work and everything had to be healthy, low cal and have calorie count info for his tracking...he won, by the way). From there I look at cookbooks, my pinterest recipe board, my stash of recipes from magazines like Real Simple and prior menu plans to come up with a list. When selecting meals I try to mix it up, so we don't end up having chicken every night, and then just go with what sounds good. Once I have my menu for the week, I create a grocery list from it, and then head to the store the next day. And that's it. Pretty basic.

So, here's this week's menu (in no particular order):

- Coconut chicken with apricot sauce, wild rice and pan-seared asparagus
- Spicy Thai tuna cakes with cucumber aioli, green beans and cous cous
- Grape, blue cheese and walnut pizzas
- Baked chicken taquitos and salad
- Guacamole grilled cheese with zucchini tots and salad
- Smoked sausage and vegetable pile-up
- Creamy crockpot chicken alfredo

For this week's menu, there are three new recipes I haven't yet tried (all found on Pinterest). The rest are tried-and-true. I will let you know how the new ones turn out. But for now, here are a couple of the tried-and-true recipes...

Grape, Blue Cheese and Walnut Pizzas (recipe serves one, so multiply based on how many you're feeding)
1 whole wheat flatbread
3/4 c. seedless red grapes, halved
2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese
2 tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup arugula leaves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place flatbread on rack in oven and bake for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; top with grapes, cheese and walnuts. Place back on rack in oven and bake 5 mins. or until cheese is melted and crust is browned. While pizza bakes, bring vinegar to a boil in small saucepan. Boil 1 min. or until vinegar thickens and is reduced by about half. Top pizza with arugula and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Serve immediately. (Amy's Notes: I don't really measure anything for this, I just eyeball it, which means I probably use more than is called for. When reducing the vinegar, it always takes longer than one minute for me, and watch it closely- it goes from doing nothing to thickening into break-your-teeth caramel pretty fast. And for some extra zing, try tossing your arugula in a little salt, pepper and olive oil before you put it on the pizzas. It's yummy.)

Smoked Sausage and Vegetable Pile-Up
7 ozs. smoked turkey or chicken sausage, sliced diagonally
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped bell pepper (mix of your choice of red, yellow, orange or green)
1 c. sliced zucchini
2 c. frozen corn
1 package refrigerated mashed potatoes (garlic or regular)
Heat large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage, saute 2 mins. or until browned. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Return pan to heat and coat with cooking spray. Add onion, bell pepper and zucchini. Coat veggies with cooking spray; saute 5 mins. or until tender and beginning to brown. While veggies cook, heat potatoes according to package directions. Add corn and cooked sausage to onion mixture. Saute for 4 mins. or until heated thru. Serve sausage mixture over mashed potatoes. (Amy's Notes: You can really use any kind of chicken or turkey sausage for this, it doesn't really have to be smoked. I think I cook everything a little longer than called for in the recipe...for sure on the veggies, cuz I like mine a little browned. This recipe is super easy and though it may not sound like much, it's surprisingly good and very satisfying.) 

Both of these recipes are from the Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast cookbook, which is my go-to cookbook for weeknight meals. If there are any other recipes from this week's menu that you're interested in, please let me know through the post a comment below and I'll try to get them posted for you.

Thanks. And happy eating!

March 10, 2012

The Launch of MamaManagement...And My Birthday

Well Happy Birthday To Me! Day before yesterday was my birthday. I'd rather not say which one. I've never been one of those ladies who doesn't reveal her age, but as forty starts circling the neighborhood looking for me, I find myself "minding." (I hope to lose that new trait as fast as I picked it up. I also hope to stop referring to myself as a "lady" henceforth.) Anyway, one of my 2012 goals was to launch this blog by my birthday. Two days late is as good as on time for a mother of a 3 year old and a 9 month old who have both been sick the last week, so yea me! I'm pretty psyched to finally get this underway. Ever since I decided I wanted to write a blog (in December), I'm constantly having ideas of things to write about. Unfortunately, most of those ideas are already lost to my swiss cheese brain. So sad. In my defense, I really don't sleep much. Which Dr. Oz informed me is taking years off my life. Great. So I'm losing years off my life along with amazing ideas and my keys (Which I recently looked for EVERYWHERE in my gigantic purse/diaper bag, while standing in the rain, only to find them in my coat pocket. Sigh.). See what I mean about starting to fret about my age. And you should see the circles under my eyes. Oy. It looks like I went a few rounds with Tyson (ears intact though).

Anyway, back to my birthday...despite turning another year older, it was lovely. The day before I got a facial, had lunch out alone with my husband, got a mani-pedi, then spent an hour in a coffeehouse alone. My husband made my favorite butternut squash risotto for dinner (it's Ina Garten and it's awesome...google it) and after the kids went to bed he surprised me with a lavendar bubble bath surrounded by candles and the vase of tulips pictured above. Plus a backrub before bed. Bonus. Because he had to travel for work on my birthday he even stayed home that morning and helped with the kids before he headed to the airport...and he gave me presents. So nice. I got some lovely phone calls and emails, funny cards (the award for funniest card goes to my mother-in-law who found one with rapping babies), and a bunch of facebook happy birthday's (which is one of the best things about facebook...it's nice to feel the love). Then, to top it off, a couple of girlfriends came over for a drink after the kids went to bed and they brought wine and cake and these flowers you see below.  Nice. And the final gift of the day? The kids slept through
the night even though they were still a bit sick. Thank you babies. So all in all, really, a pretty fab day(s). And now, my birthday present to myself- I'm crossing "Launch blog" off my to-do list.

So you may be wondering, why this blog, Amy? I suppose I should explain before I dive head first into crazy. A few reasons, really. First, the practical side: I have a few friends who regularly ask me for recipes or menu planning ideas since I do a lot of cooking (most of it pretty decent). And I figured this would be a much easier way to share things than constantly typing emails.

Second, I simply have been inspired by other blogs I have recently read...many of which I have found through Pinterest (aaaahhhh, Pinterest...but that's a whole other posting! I will only say that I assume there will eventually be a twelve step program for Pinterest addiction...children and work everywhere neglected while people look at "just a few more pins"). Eventually I will add links from this blog to some of the other cool one's I've found.

But the biggest reason why I've launched this blog has to do with my 2012 New Year's Resolutions. First, let me say that I hate that term, "new year's resolutions"...it's so tainted with hokey, unfulfilled crap and doesn't really capture what I'm talking about. But I can't come up with another 3-word-or-less description that will easily communicate to you the gist of what I'm talking about. So there it is...resolutions. The nutshell: I've decided that I've quite drastically changed over the past three years (since becoming a Mama), but that how I think about and express myself hasn't really caught up with this change. So this year is about refocusing things and reinventing the "me" part of my life (the kid/Mama part of my life takes care of its focus on its own!). A big part of this change has to do with a refocusing on creativity. And that's where this blog comes in, both as a creative outlet itself and as a way of keeping me honest on my quest for a more creative and authentic life.

So there you have it. MamaManagement is launched. I promise more useful stuff in my next post. Maybe I'll throw you a good recipe or two before I force my ramblings on you again. You can only hope.