Dinner tonight – Mini pizzas

Lunches are hard for me, especially with a toddler. I have to come up with something to feed myself and a little person. For some reason, this leaves me standing in front of the fridge scratching my head too many days. This was pointed out to me when I realized that every time I open the fridge, Hannah says, “Hmmmm…” Wonder where she learned that.

I knew that if I didn’t come up with some good, healthy, kid-friendly lunch options, I’d be very tempted to turn to some pre-packaged frozen foods for convenience’s sake. That’s when I expanded my repertoire for bulk-cooking and freezing. I’ve already shared my chicken nugget plan, today highlights my mini-pizzas.

Super easy, just whole wheat English muffins, sauce, and cheese for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. I made my own sauce by cooking canned crushed tomatoes, dried herbs, and grated zucchini. When they cooled, I just threw them in a large freezer bag, and they’re now ready to pull out whenever Hannah wants some pizza. Unfortunately, she was not in the pizza mood tonight and most of hers ended up on the floor. Sigh, I try not to take toddler eating habits too personally.

Brett and I also had mini pizzas for dinner, but we added pepperoni and didn’t throw any on the floor.

Real life photography

Part of having a blog is turning little things into “events.” This morning I grabbed my camera to capture a little event.

We will be spending some time in Colorado this summer, and we are talking about the trip with Hannah so that maybe she’ll have some idea of what’s going on when it happens. This morning I went through our postcard collection to find any of “Rado” or any picture that included mountains.

10:39 AM: Setting them out on the coffee table, I let her look at the pictures.

10:40 AM: This was fun until Fern jumped up on the table and decided to sit right in front of the camera (she’s kind of a diva). My photo op wasn’t going as planned, but this is real life so I kept shooting. Also in this period of seconds, Hannah apparently got bored and found some crossword puzzle books and a pen.

10:41 AM: Hannah decided crossword puzzles were not a good activity due to her lack of knowledge of the alphabet. She then realized there were other postcards in the basket and started going through the rest. Fern is still posing conspicuously.

10:42 AM: There were so many that she decided to turn the basket upside down and bang it on the table to remove the rest. This scared Fern off the table.

10:43 AM: She found one of a toucan that she really liked.

And that’s real life. I wanted a sweet picture of Hannah gazing dreamily at mountain landscapes. Instead, I have a diva cat, crossword puzzles, and a toucan.


Hannah’s review – “Babies”

Hi, Hannah here. I know there are some other toddlers who read this, so I wanted to let you know about what I’ve been doing lately.

I don’t get to watch a lot of TV. We don’t have cable or a DVR, but we do have Netflix. My attention span is pretty short, so I don’t make it very far through anything, but I like to try.

Most recently, I’ve been watching the movie “Babies” which comes streaming through Netflix. When I want to watch it, I point at the TV and say, “Babies, babies, babies!” I usually only watch things for about six minutes at a time, but this movie was so interesting that it only took me four sessions to finish the hour and 15 minutes. My mommy thought this was pretty impressive.

If you are not familiar with this movie, it is a documentary that follows four babies in different countries through approximately their first year. My summary of the four babies:

  • Ponijao – Namibia – My favorite baby. She is always happy and has dogs. She gets to play a lot and is an awesome dancer.
  • Mari – Japan – Not very exciting. Too much of a perfectionist.
  • Bayar – Mongolia – Poor kid has a mean older brother. But I like him because he has lots of animals, especially cows.
  • Hattie – USA – They say this is Hattie, but I know it is really me. I try to tell my mommy this by pointing at the TV and saying, “Hannah! Hannah!”

I like to narrate the movie with things I recognize like “cow,” “truck,” “sad,” “eating,” and “bucket share.” Tonight, I was watching with my daddy and telling some of the babies to share.

There is no dialogue in this movie, so it doesn’t matter that I can’t follow a long conversation yet. I just get to watch babies do stuff. Even though some of them are growing up in very different environments than me, I can find the things we have in common. Sometimes my mommy only sees the differences; I notice what’s the same.

So far, this is my favorite movie, and I would recommend it to my fellow toddlers, though anyone would probably like it. Especially because they apparently picked me to be in it! Check out the trailer on their website and learn more about each of the babies. Maybe next time Mommy will let me get on and tell you about Chick-fil-A – I’m really confused about why we eat chicken at a place that has pictures of cows everywhere.

Dinner tonight – Chicken verde soup

I know it’s summer, not typical soup season, but I didn’t want to wait until fall to share this recipe. And we didn’t want to wait until fall to eat it again.

After Hannah was born, we were so blessed by friends and lifegroup families bringing us meals. One night was this Chicken Verde Soup, and we were hooked. I asked for the recipe (which is luckily really easy) and have been making it regularly ever since.

Chicken Verde Soup

  • 1 box chicken stock (32 oz)
  • 1 bottle verde salsa
  • 3-ish cups beans (2 cans drained and rinsed, or 1/2 bag dried beans prepared)
  • meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 T. cumin (I really like cumin)

Add all ingredients to pot. Simmer for 20-ish minutes. Seriously easy.

This soup has a kick for sure. I guess you could add less verde salsa to tone it down; I like to mellow it a bit by adding sour cream, shredded cheese, and crushed tortilla chips.

This serves 6-8, and my approximate cost for the soup was $10. Adding toppings is an extra $5, and you’ll probably even have a lot left over – could be used for an easy nacho night. Toddler modification: I kept aside some beans and chicken (plain) for Hannah. We usually eat this for dinner two nights, then I freeze the rest in individual-serving containers. When I need an easy lunch, I just pull one out of the freezer. Sometimes I hide it from Brett so he won’t take it for his lunch; that’s probably not very nice of me.

I think this is a good year-round soup because it is easy, tasty, and filling. It’s not thick and heavy like a lot of “winter soups” and stews. And when I eat it, I think of when Hannah was a baby and how thankful we are for sweet friends with good recipes.

The big kid class

This week our church is having VBS. They are great and have childcare for the little ones whose moms are volunteering. I figured Hannah would be in her normal room where they basically just play and sometimes go for a ride on the mega-stroller. But this week she was bumped up to the 2’s class, and it is a big switch. They have a special snack, go to large group music time, do crafts, and play outside.

Headed to VBS

I was initially concerned that Hannah wouldn’t be able to handle all these activities. She’s too little, right? Maybe she doesn’t belong with these “big kids.” I told her teacher that I had no qualms about putting her back into the younger class if things didn’t work out.

I decided to peek at her in the large group time to see how she was doing. What a surprise! My baby was staying with her class, dancing to the music, doing the song motions, watching the videos, pointing at the people on stage – totally engaged and behaved. My heart hurt a little; my baby is growing up. She’s exceeding my expectations and adjusting to big new experiences that I didn’t think she was ready for. Turns out, maybe I was the one not ready for them.

Though with getting up early and her full morning at VBS, she comes home exhausted and doesn’t even nap well. I’m looking forward to getting back to our regular routine. But I’m glad she’s enjoying her new adventure. At random times in the afternoon, she’ll grab her bag, go to the door and say, “Friends. Church.”

Getting jazzy

I often cruise online resources for free family activities in Austin. This is how I came across a summer concert series in nearby Sunset Valley. Sunset Valley is legally its own little town with its own city hall and police force, but it’s in the middle of Austin. They are hosting outdoor concerts every few weeks during the summer, so we decided to check it out last night.

The main draw was the featured group, a jazz sextet led by Butch Miles who I had never heard of but he has a Wikipedia article about him, so I guess that makes him cool. The major drawback – the time – the concert didn’t start until 7:30, and Hannah’s usual bedtime is 7. But we were in the mood for some live music and thought Hannah should have the experience.

The venue was great – behind their city hall, the musicians sat under a large porch and spectators sat in chairs or blankets on some very excellent grass. Along the back of this area are six large wooden porch swings; these were very popular and filled up fast. We opted for a blanket, though Hannah did try out some chairs.

She didn’t stay sitting anywhere for long. We took turns following her around as she meandered through the area. Luckily, at these events the audience is very casual and friendly, and they don’t mind toddlers wandering around mid-concert. Hannah enjoyed checking out the other toddlers there and attempting to take their snacks. She has also recently figured out buckles, so she was briefly entertained by the buckle on the backpack.

The jazz group was standardly formulaic – they would play a couple minutes of a song and then would all do solos. According to jazz listening etiquette, we would all clap after each solo which Hannah thought was fun. At the end of a song, she would say, “More! More!”

The music was great, the weather was surprisingly pleasant, and Hannah was happy walking around. At 8:15, we decided it was enough past her bedtime that we should head home. I think we’ll be adding more Sunset Valley concerts to our family calendar.

Happy Father’s Day

I planned a special Father’s Day dessert for tonight – it involves peanut butter and chocolate, Brett’s favorite pairing. I made it this morning and thought it would be fun to share the cooking tasks. While I mixed some other ingredients, I gave Hannah the job of crushing the Oreos for the crust. We put some cookies in a bag and got some cans for the smashing. I thought this would be fun for her; Brett modeled the technique.

Then it went downhill really fast. Apparently, Hannah did not grasp the concept of crushing the Oreos for a purpose – all she knew is that there were perfectly good cookies in the bag and Daddy was smashing them into inedible bits. She started crying and trying to grab the bag away from him. He continued crushing. She continued freaking out.

You would have thought we were crushing kittens the way she was carrying on. I think she was a little traumatized. When the ordeal was over, we showed her that Daddy had not destroyed all of the cookies, and there were still plenty to eat.

So Happy Father’s Day, Brett! Sorry for creating unexpected drama – I was trying to make a fun family cooking activity, instead I made your daughter think you are an evil cookie-destroyer.

Like we need an excuse to eat Frosties

This weekend, Wendy’s is donating 50 cents of every Frosty purchase to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for foster children. We love Frosties, and we love adoption, so this is perfect!

We got Hannah her own Jr. Frosty, and it was almost all gone at the end – though we’re not sure of the exact percentages of what ended up in her mouth vs. what was on her shirt, the table, the floor, etc.

So go eat a Frosty for a good cause this weekend!

Despicable flea

We have three pets, two dogs and a cat. They take up more of our budget than we would like. To cut back the pet section of our monthly expenditures, I decided to forego the monthly flea and tick prevention drops. With three pets, it can add up quickly, and I felt the chance of them actually getting fleas was quite small anyway. Even when we’d gotten the prevention drops in the past, I never remembered to use them.

Unfortunately, our cheap and lazy selves sent our dogs to the kennel in April with no flea protection. Days after coming home, we realized we had unwelcome visitors.

We looked online for tips on flea treatment and followed all of them. We called the vet’s office and followed their suggestions. The websites said our battle could last up to a month. That seemed like a long time. Little did we know, a month into the battle we’d be seeing very little improvement! We’d gotten every product and followed all suggestions with little progress.

We are in Week 10 of the battle and are breathing more freely. Based on the last week, I think we have finally beaten them. Though as we are looking at receipts, we are painfully aware of the cost of the “cheap option” of foregoing monthly flea prevention. Here’s an approximate breakdown of the products and treatments we have purchased in the last ten weeks:

  • Cheap flea drops – $13
  • Carpet powder – $26
  • Natural pet sprays – $29
  • Carpet spray – $13
  • Flea repellant – $15
  • Frontline drops- $76
  • Capstar pills – $135
  • Flea drops for cat – $16
  • Capstar pills for cat – $41
  • Yard sprays – $45
  • Nematodes for yard – $92
  • K9 Advantix drops – $59
  • Boric acid – $5
  • Vacuum bags – $30

All this plus tax comes to over $600.  Granted, that includes flea protection drops for two more months, but still… ouch. We also threw out all the dog beds so will need to purchase new ones – another $50.

I was previously unfamiliar with Capstar products. They are pills that claim to kill all live fleas on the animal within four hours. I don’t think it worked quite that well for us, but there was a noticeable effect which was more than I could say for most of the other products. We used them in conjunction with the flea drops because the Capstar only kills live fleas, it does not repel fleas or kill flea eggs.

Luckily, the fleas seemed to stay on the animals, and we did not seem to have issues with them in the house or biting us. But I have put several years’ worth of use on our brand new vacuum cleaner in the last couple months.

So the moral of the story – if you have pets, don’t think that skipping monthly flea prevention will save you money. We tried that theory; it doesn’t work.

Dinner tonight – Chicken enchiladas with poblano cream sauce

Recently, we were feeling like Mexican and headed to one of our favorite local spots Maudie’s. Brett raved about the chicken enchiladas he ordered with a poblano cream sauce. So I figured I needed to come up with my own version; I had a feeling it wasn’t too hard and could certainly be done for less than $7.50 a serving.

My recipe involves my new favorite way to do shredded chicken. Just take four boneless skinless chicken breasts, lay in the bottom of a slow cooker (and I always use a slow cooker liner), cover with around 1 3/4 cups of liquid, set on low for 7 hours and relax! When it’s done, just take the chicken out and shred it with forks. If you’re going to use the liquid left as a sauce, skim off as much fat as possible then put the shredded chicken back in the slow cooker with about 1 cup of liquid and cook on high for 15 minutes. I have done this several times with different liquids and seasonings, all tasty. I’ve done Frank’s hot sauce, beer, and this time I used chicken stock and a couple tablespoons of fajita seasoning. Really easy process with versatility, and no heating up a grill or stove.

And a word about poblanos – they are a very mild pepper, only slightly spicier than a green pepper, far below a jalapeno. So don’t be scared, they’re good flavor!

Chicken Enchiladas with Poblano Cream Sauce

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (according to above directions)
  • 16 tortillas
  • 2 c. shredded cheese of choice
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded, diced
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350.
To make cream sauce, saute diced peppers in butter until tender. Add flour and stir until smooth. Add chicken stock and stir until thickened. Add sour cream gradually, stirring until sauce is thick and smooth.
Spray two 9×13 pans. Put shredded chicken in tortillas, roll, and place in pans. Sprinkle cheese evenly on top – 1 c. per pan – then bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Take out of oven and pour cream sauce on top. Return to oven for another 10 minutes.

Since these quantities make two pans, it’s perfect to take one to a friend’s house who just had a baby (what I did) or stick in the freezer for later. And it comes out to around 75 cents per enchilada, not bad! And my tortillas came in a pack of 20 – this left four for me to grab some extra chicken and cheese and make some chicken quesadillas for the toddler palate.

This is a have-again at our house! Unfortunately, you have no picture because enchiladas are really not photogenic. But the most important thing is that they’re tasty.