Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Easy Mexican Lasagna

The chicken filling for this recipe is made in a crockpot, but the dish is finished in the oven.

Ingredients for chicken filling:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, (frozen is okay)
1 cup salsa
I can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1/4 cup water
I medium onion, chopped
1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed
1 tsp dried minced garlic
2-4 tsp chilli powder, or even more, depending on how much heat you like)
1-2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Black pepper to taste

Other ingredients:
flour tortillas ( any size will work, you will just need more if you choose a small size)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or substitute cheese if your choice)

Combine all filling ingredients in crockpot.  For frozen breasts, cook 5 to 6 hours on high, or until you can easily shred the chicken.  (It will require less time for thawed chicken.). If the mixture seems too wet, keep heating on high for another 30 minutes or so.  Reduce crockpot to low and keep filling warm until ready to assemble casserole.

To complete dish:
Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Line with a layer of flower tortillas, ripping them as needed, to fit. It's not neccesary to have every single inch of the bottom covered.  Cover tortillas with half of the chicken mixture and sprinkle with one cup of cheese.  Repeat tortilla and chicken layers once more.    Cover with another layer of tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Let sit for a minute or two and cut into squares to serve.  Garnish with sour cream, lettuce and diced tomatoes.  Serves 6 to 8.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

You can't believe everything you read!

You know that belief that it takes 21 days to create a new habit?  Well, let me just say that it's not true. I've been working on exercising daily for 22 days now, and it is most definitely not a habit!  it still feels like an unwelcome task.  Wonder what that says about me?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Last Minute Chicken Pot Pie

This evening we had planned to go to a dinner at church, hosted by the youth group as a fund raiser.  The dinner was cancelled because of the snowy weather, but not until after 4. I hadn't planned anything for dinner. Hubby suggested going out, but it was cold, snowy and just generally nasty out there, so I whipped this up instead, from stuff I had in my pantry.  I happened to have a jar of turkey gravy that I had purchased for Thanksgiving, "just in case" that I wanted to use up, and I usually have canned chicken in the pantry.

Last Minute Chicken Pot Pie

2 or 3 medium potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 chicken bouillon cube
12 oz jar chicken gravy
12 oz can of chicken breast, diced or 1 and 1/2 cups leftover cooked chicken, diced
Pinch of thyme
Sprinkle of dried chives
Black pepper to taste

Biscuit Topper:
1 and 1/8 cups biscuit baking mix ( like Bisquick or Jiffy)
1/3 cup milk
Sprinkle of dried parsley, optional

Place potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and bouillon cube in saucepan. Cover vegetables with water and cook until tender.  (I'd add some frozen peas to this if my hubby would eat them.). Drain the vegetables and stir in the gravy and the chicken.  Add thyme, pepper and chives.   Pour into a two quart casserole dish.

Combine biscuit mix and milk.  Mix in a little dried parsley for color if desired.  Knead the resulting dough a few times and flatten it into a large biscuit that is the size and shape of your casserole dish.  Place this over the chicken mixture and slash it with a sharp knife in a few places to let the steam out.

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes, until the biscuit top is done, and lightly browned.

Serves 4.

I love Pinterest......but..........

First of all, I have exercised more than 150 minutes a week for each of the last two weeks.  They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit. We'll see.  Right now it's more like a job than a habit.

Recently I saw a Pinterest pin that informed me that a packet of Koolaid powder would clean the hard water rings out of my toilet with hardly any effort on my part.  Well, the "no effort" part got my attention right away.  It just so happens that I have a lot of little packets of Koolaid. (My grocery store used to give them away free with a sugar purchase a couple of times each summer.  We don't drink Koolaid, but hey!  It was free!). Anyhow, the picture with the pin showed yellow Koolaid and the blurb said that it was actually the citric acid in the stuff that did the cleaning.  I only had red Koolaid, but citric acid was the first thing on the ingredient list.  So, following the directions from the pin, I sprinkled my red Koolaid all over two of the toilets in my house.  It said to let it sit for an hour or longer, so off I went to the grocery store.  When I got back to those bathrooms a couple of hours later, the Koolaid had solidified and I had to scrub for quite a while to get it all off.  At this point the toilet looked like someone had bled to death in it.  It took several flushes to get the water clear enough to enjoy the sight of my toilet bowl without the hard water ring.  (After all, that's what the after picture on Pinterest promised.)  Uh oh!  The very pale tan ring was gone, and in its place there was a pink ring.  Pink is prettier, right?  Wrong!  It looked much dirtier than it did I ended up scrubbing toilets in the usual way.  The kicker?  I did this in two bathrooms.  The moral of the story?  If it sounds too good to be true, it  probably is.  If I had thought before I leaped, I would have tried it out in one bathroom first.  The bonus?  The bathrooms now smell fruity..., with just the slightest essence of artificial flavoring.

Oh well, I still love Pinterest........

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Better Habits in 2016

I've been pretty quiet here this past year. I haven't done a lot of crafting, but I did manage to read over 140 books.  I'm feeling the urge to make things again though, so maybe inspiration will strike and some new patterns will appear in 2016.  However, this post hasn't about crafting. It's about new beginnings and trying to get healthy.

I'm a registered nurse and work in critical care.  I am required to get continuing education credits to maintain my license.  Yesterday, I stumbled on a couple that included strategies to prevent diabetes and heart disease, both conditions that are not only increasing in our society, but are also appearing in younger and younger patients, and are leading causes of death, disability and health care spending. Surprisingly, I learned that currently, more women than men die of heart disease in the US. Much to my dismay, once I actually saw these things in black and white, I realized that I actually fit into the higher risk categories for getting a serious, chronic disease. My list of risk factors is impressive, and there are probably some that I missed.   I'm post menopausal, over weight, apple shaped, sedentary, have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, my diet isn't the best, and I rarely get enough sleep. I generally think of myself as pretty healthy...but this was a huge wake up call for me.

In the past I've focused on weight control as my primary strategy for being healthier, but I haven't been motivated enough to maintain this, probably at least in part, because a healthy lifestyle encompasses a lot more than just this one thing. In 2016, 
I'm going to focus on creating healthy habits, one habit at a time.

I'm planning to focus on activity first. This will probably be the hardest for me to start and maintain. My goal will be at least 150 minutes of actual intentional exercise each week. My current plan is 20 minutes on either the treadmill or exercise bike at least 5 days a week, plus two 30 minute walks a week. In addition I plan to park at the far end of the parking ramp at work, plus park farther away at stores, etc. As I get into better shape, I will take the stairs more. At this point more than one or two flights of stairs make me extremely short of breath. I will also set a goal of walking around 10,000 steps per day at least five days a week. I'll have to buy a better pedometer to track this though, or maybe a Fitbit. I'll be interested to see if increasing my activity will increase the quality of my sleep.

Another thing I've noticed is that my sense of balance is declining. For instance, I can no longer stand on one foot for more than a second ir two before I'm at risk of falling over. According to a physical therapist co-worker, this is a normal consequence of aging and it can be improved and prevented by exercise. Apparently there are some specific exercises, but she recommended exercises that strengthen your core, such as walking, biking, etc. So I'm hopeful that improvement in this area will also be a benefit of increasing my level of activity.

I'm putting this out here for several reasons. I want to be accountable and putting it out here will help me with that. I'm hoping my journey provides encouragement and inspiration for others. Lastly, I'd love to have company in this endeavor, so if anyone wants to join me, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Easy 5 Can Soup

I really, really, really need to work on eating better.  Two years ago, I lost 26 pounds on Weight Watchers.  After a while I decided that I knew how it worked, so why pay for it.  I'm sure you can guess what happened. I managed to gain back all the weight, plus 5 more pounds.  I lost the extra 5 pounds over the past couple of months and now I'm back where I was when I first tried WW.  So, today I'm starting again.  This is what I had for lunch.

I found a number of versions of this recipe online, and tweaked it a bit to my taste.

1 14.5 oz can corn, drained
1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (could probably substitute other types of beans)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth (or 2 cups water plus 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
1/2 cup refried beans (freeze leftovers)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 tsp dried minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in saucepan.  Bring to barely boiling over high heat, then turn heat to low and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.  A little chili powder and cumin would probably be good in this, if you like those flavors.

Nutrition info. per serving:
236 calories
47 grams carbohydrates
11 grams fiber
13 grams protein
2 grams fat

4 servings, 6 points plus each, (if my calculations are correct.)

This tasted good, was quite filling and helped me towards my 5 or more fruit and vegetable servings for the day.  I also like the fact that I can easily keep the basic ingredients in my pantry.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bread Machine Recipe

This is my favorite bread machine recipe. My bread machine only makes a one pound loaf, so if your machine is bigger, and you want to make a bigger loaf, you would have to increase the ingredients.  (Most larger machines can make loaves in smaller sizes though). However, I think that you should consult your bread machine manual to get some idea of how much salt and yeast to use in a larger loaf.  Same with other seasonings added to the dough.  I'm not sure that those ingredients would need to be increased in proportion to the others. This is a very basic recipe and as written it makes a nice light loaf of white bread. I think this recipe should work, even if you don't use a machine.

I don't bake bread in the machine, I always make dough and then bake it in the oven. I've never baked this bread in the machine.  If I tried it, I would use the light crust, and white bread settings.

7 ounces lukewarm water
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp white sugar
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine in order suggested by manufacturer.  Set machine to white bread and dough setting.  Check dough when it's a few minutes into the cycle and add either a small amount of flour or water if needed, to form a smooth dough that isn't sticky to the touch.  (Check your manual for more details and when to check.). Once dough cycle is complete, form dough into loaf and place in greased bread pan.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Bake bread in preheated 400 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until nicely browned.  Cool on a rack, covered with a clean towel.  Slice when cool.  Makes a one pound loaf, approximately 16 slices.

This is not my favorite variation, but you could substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the bread flour.  Add 1 tbsp of vital wheat gluten for each cup of  whole wheat flour.  It might need a bit longer to rise.  Mix and bake as directed.

This can be rolled out into a pizza crust.  Just spread rolled out dough with tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese and add whatever toppings you like. Let stand for 10 minutes or so.  Bake at 400 until crust is browned and cheese is melted. Length of time to bake will depend on how thin you rolled the crust, and how much you put on it, but around 12 minutes is a good time to start checking.  I make two 12 inch crusts out of this. We eat one, and I bake the other until it's done, but not yet browned and then freeze it.  Sometimes I make 4 individual pizza crusts.  That way I can have mushrooms and peppers and hubby can have meat and onions.

I also use this recipe to make raisin bread.  I haven't had any luck with adding raisins to the bread machine.  They either end up all chopped up, or stuck to the outside of the dough, or rolling around loose in the pan.  Instead, I do the following:
1.  Roll out the dough into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface
2.  Very lightly brush the dough with a small amount of melted butter.
3. Sprinkle very lightly with cinnamon and generously with raisins.  Press raisins into dough.   (If you omit the raisins, increase the cinnamon a bit and sprinkle with sugar, you will end up with cinnamon bread.)
4:   Roll up dough from short side, tuck ends under to form a loaf shape and place into greased bread pan.  Allow to rise and bake as directed above.

Cinnamon rolls are made similarly.  Spread dough rectangle with softened butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up from long side of rectangle and cut into slices about an inch thick. Arrange in a greased 9x13  pan, allow to rise, and bake at 350 for approximately 15 minutes.  Glaze with a powdered sugar glaze or frost when the come out of the oven.  I sometimes let these rise overnight in the fridge and bake them the next morning.

Herb Bread
Add to dough with other ingredients:
1/4 tsp each of:  dried basil, dried minced garlic, dried thyme, dried oregano, coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp each of dried rosemary,  and dried minced onion

10 Grain Cereal Bread
Add 1/2 cup 7 or 10 grain cereal to the pan, (the kind of cereal that you cook on the stove), before mixing the dough.  I buy 10 grain cereal from an Amish bulk food store, and it doesn't absorb much water, so I leave all the other ingredients the same.  I don't know about other brands of cereal.  You may need to decrease the flour or ad a bit if water.
This is our go-to variation.  We like the slight crunch of the cereal in our sandwiches and toast, and this is also a great bread to serve with soup.

Honey Oatmeal Bread
Add 2 tsp honey instead of the sugar and 3/4 cup quick oats to the bread.  Decrease bread flour to 2 cups.  You may need to add either additional flour or a bit of water to this one, depending on how much water the oatmeal absorbs.  Instant oats will absorb more water than quick oats, which in turn will absorb more water than regular oats or stoneground oats.