Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Husband-Cooked Meal

One of my favorite things about Eric is that the man can cook. He knows how to make everything, and it's always good, always impressive, and I'm always asking him to cook me something else! A couple of weeks ago he made one of my favorites from the Eric Recipe Files-- Roasted Chicken.

This recipe is one of my favorites because it's easy, it's delicious, inexpensive, and it makes for terrific leftovers. We used the leftover chicken in our Chicken Spaghetti and it took it to a whole new level.

To make a roast chicken I recommend a few essentials: a large roasting pan lined with foil, more foil to cover the chicken to keep it from getting too crisp, and a beer can stand to set up the chicken-- EVEN if you don't use beer! It's just a very handy way to keep your chicken stable and keep the moisture in while it cooks.

To start, you'll need a whole chicken, cleaned out and patted dry (inside and out). Preheat your oven to 450.

Season the chicken to your liking; we use a mix of salt and pepper, BBQ dry rub, rosemary, and garlic powder.

Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken, and stuff with a few cloves of smashed garlic, an onion cut into small sections, a lemon, and a few sprigs of parsley and sage if you have them.

Tuck the wings under the breast so they don't burn, and get the legs as close together as you can; if you can tie them together, that's even better.

Roast the chicken at 450 for about 30 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 425 and continue to roast for another 30-40 minutes until you get an internal temperature of 165 (this is a good time to add any white wine or lemon juice to the pan that you may want for extra flavor and juiciness.) Be sure to check the chicken toward the end of the roasting period and cover with foil if needed to prevent the skin from getting too brown.

After you pull the chicken, allow it to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before you serve.

And that's it! 

Serve with your favorite sides (we made sweet potatoes with extra butter and brown sugar) and a fresh salad, and you'll have a very easy meal that will impress just about anyone. Including your very high maintenance wife (thanks, honey!) Enjoy!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

First Married Fourth

It's been 2 1/2 months since my last post-- eek! In my defense, the last 2 1/2 months have been quite possibly the busiest in my life! Let's see if we can figure out what was eating up so much of my time...

I finished up my first year of teaching.
I got married.
I went on my honeymoon.
I came back to start up my second year of teaching.
I got the apartment cleaned up and updated with all of our new gifts.
I started up a side business on Etsy.
I can't get enough of my husband!

Yup, it's been busy! I am planning to post many pictures and ideas from our wonderful wedding as soon as I can; until then, I am going to share a totally unrelated, absolutely delicious recipe I just tried!

In honor of the holiday, I made a special breakfast for Eric and me. Of course, it had to be red, white, and blue. I made a delicious, sweet, and syrupy fruit crisp. Try the recipe below!

You'll need:
2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats or oat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted

First, preheat your oven to 350, and have a 2-quart baking dish ready.

To make the filling, combine all your fruit, the lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl. Pour the filling into the baking dish and set it aside.

For the topping, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, making sure you stir well to mix the butter in evenly. Spoon the crumb mixture over the top of the crisp.

Bake the crisp for 35 minutes. You can serve it hot or cold, for breakfast, or with ice cream for dessert!

Go ahead and enjoy; I'll be posting more soon!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eating on the Fly

Eric and I are always looking for new ideas for his lunchbox. Buying food at the airport is always expensive, and many times the options are limited, especially if he's flying late at night. Living on pilot and teacher salaries, we are constantly working to save money. Figuring out how to pack healthy, inexpensive, and filling foods for his trips has been challenging, but there are some tried and true standbys we have come to love over the last couple of years.

The two greatest challenges to overcome with Eric's lunchbox are space and heat (either the challenge is to pack foods that may not require a microwave, as not all hotels have one in the room, or to pack foods that don't necessarily need to be kept cold, as his days can be upwards of 14 hours long). I scoured the internet a few weeks ago looking for suggestions and ideas for healthy meals for pilots, but there was a remarkable silence on the subject. SO, I decided to offer up my tiny reservoir of ideas, especially to other women and men out there who are trying to feed hungry pilots!

There are some foods that are pretty obvious choices: crackers, nuts, snack/meal bars, fruit cups, chips, oatmeal and ramen (both can be cooked on the plane using hot water from the coffeemaker), muffins, breads (we love banana and zucchini-pumpkin), and cookies.

But let's face it, those foods get tiresome quickly, and they don't necessarily make up a filling meal. So we have come up with a list of other foods and ideas that work well:
  • leftover pastas and casseroles, which I freeze rock solid before a trip so they will keep cold during flight
  • cheese sticks, mini cheese wedges, individual guacamole cups and tortillas
  • sometimes Eric will carry a jar of peanut or almond butter and sandwich bread for a cheap lunch
  • individual microwave meals that don't need to be kept cold, such as Velveeta skillets mini-meals
  • chicken salad (frozen for travel) and tortillas, to make wraps
  • burritos (the possibilities here are endless!)
I want to share my recipes and ideas for burritos with you, as these come in handy for anyone who eats on the go, even if it means heating up your lunch at the office!

I have made two varieties of burritos so far, breakfast and chicken, but I plan to make some beef and even some pork burritos in the next batch. These work so well because you can pack many different flavors and food groups into a small package that travels and heats well, and they are so inexpensive to make!

For Eric's breakfast burritos, I diced and fried some potatoes, sauteed some onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos (he likes a lot of heat!), I cooked up some chorizo sausage, and scrambled some eggs. I put a spoonful of everything onto a tortilla and topped it with shredded cheddar cheese.

I was able to make a dozen burritos using only 6 eggs, 4 potatoes, 1 jalapeno, half each of an onion and bell pepper, and 1 cup of cheese. Like I said, these are inexpensive! Eric usually fills up on two of these burritos, and I just use the medium-sized tortillas.

To finish assembling the burritos, I wrapped each one in plastic wrap (to keep them from getting freezer burn, and to make them more transportable) and then stored them in the freezer in a gallon Ziplock. When he's packing his lunch, he just grabs a few and tosses them in the lunchbox.

I made a batch of chicken burritos, too, and the timing was perfect, as I had some leftover refried beans and some leftover fresh corn and salsa. To make the chicken burritos, I put some shredded chicken, beans, corn, salsa, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese in a tortilla and wrapped it up! Again, I was able to get about a dozen burritos out of 2 chicken breasts. That's 6 meals!

Knowing that Eric is eating real, healthy, whole food while he's away AND is not having to spend any money to do it is comforting to me. I may not be a traditional home-cooked housewife, but I do want to know that my almost-husband is being taken care of, even while he's working.

Hopefully this post has been helpful in providing some ideas for on-the-go lunches and snacks, especially for pilots!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spacing Out

We just finished a unit on Outer Space-- this is probably one of my favorites so far this year. It's pretty easy to keep the attention of 3-year olds when you're talking about spaceships and aliens!

This post will be short and sweet. It's all about the resources, people!

We kicked off the week with our alphabet craft; this week it was the letter X, so we made a xylophone. The kids cut out a construction paper strip, then covered it with foil to add some interesting texture. Then they were responsible for ordering the colored bars from largest to smallest and gluing them in place. Last, they attached the xylophone stick, made from a popsicle stick and a pom-pom. 

We made a spaceship as well. The kids cut out the body of the ship, then they glued on the triangle base pieces and the top. They colored the flames and glued those on as well. They finished the ship by sticking some shiny star stickers on it.

Next we made planet Earth. The kids cut out the circle and glued it to their “space” paper. Before we started, I cut out some continent-like shapes and laminated them so we could reuse them for each child. The last step was for the kids to sponge-paint around the shapes to create the ocean and the continents on the paper.

Last, we made the moon. The kids painted on the easel and glued “craters” to the surface.

Another fun activity I found online was a printable mini-book. The kids used their imaginations and created their own planet, complete with their own drawings. They named it and included details about the planet's happenings. This was a terrific way to work in some emergent literacy. You can find the book here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Monkey Business

To wrap up the Winter season and get ready for Spring we did a unit on Monkeys and Gorillas. It could also be considered a Zoo unit, but for Art I tried to focus on just monkeys and gorillas. It was a pretty fun week. We made a gorilla (the kids cut out the face, painted the head, then glued the face on top of the head, and used Q-tips to paint the nose and the furrowed brow); a puppet set to go along with the song “5 Little Monkeys” (the kids made an alligator puppet from a paper sack, then glued pre-printed monkey cutouts to popsicle sticks); and we also made a monkey and a jungle, both of which are pictured below.

To go along with the unit, my classroom centers included a zoo puzzle, a banana file folder game to practice counting, and my sensory table had a base of beans & noodles with some small plastic zoo animals and nets thrown in.

One of the best parts of the week was an afternoon language activity we did where the kids got to act out a story we read. They loved it so much we actually ended up doing it again later in the week with a different story. The first story we did was 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. This was a very easy activity, since the story is extremely simple and repetitive. First I read the story to the group, then I chose 5 kids to be monkeys, and the others got to be the doctors. The kids acted out the story as I read it aloud again. They had a blast getting to jump up and down and shake their fingers at each other (in a friendly way). The second story we did was a bit more challenging for the kids, as it was longer and had a lot more detail. We read and acted out Caps for Sale. While we definitely had fun, I would recommend doing this only with a small group of 3-year olds, or saving it for an older age.

Monkeys and Gorillas is a pretty open theme; there are endless opportunities for pretend play, and the art projects were all unique; but hands down, my favorite thing was watching the kids get so into the stories we read. Letting them play around and act like monkeys was fun, but seeing them comprehend and recall the story plot was very satisfying as a teacher. At 3, it's not always easy for kids to recall the details or sequence of a story, especially if it's something that doesn't interest them, so acting it out and letting them be loud and playful was a cool way to encourage their learning.

...Plus, I got to jump around and act like a monkey, too!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Where You Go, I Will Go

We live a somewhat uprooted life. At the moment, we are lucky enough to live at home in Tulsa, close to friends and family. But I have no illusions about Eric's job. Most likely, we will move at least once over the course of our lives together in order to accommodate his lifestyle. Moving across the country is not anything new to me; I just moved back “home” from Chicago, after all. But that was for school, and I always grew up knowing that I would live away from home in order to get a degree. Moving away from home as an adult for a job is a relatively new idea for me. I never imagined that I would live away from my parents and siblings; it was never something I desired.

But as we settle into Eric's job at ExpressJet, it's a reality that I'm not only accepting, but I'm growing more and more comfortable with. You see, living across the country from my family used to seem isolating and scary. But living across the country with Eric seems exciting and full of possibility. And as we have promised each other to spend as much of this life together as possible, moving has become an opportunity for our (upcoming) marriage to flourish.

To remind myself of these things, and to remind myself of what unconditional devotion means, I created and hung this piece of art on our wall, right next to where Eric's suitcase sits when he's home. I designed the text, then downloaded a free banner and printed the whole thing on cardstock. The backing is scrapbook paper, and I got the frame at a garage sale for $2.

Feel free to download the print as a pdf here and print it out from your computer!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gallery Wall

Making our apartment homey is an ongoing project, that has mostly consisted of planning and planning... and planning. Being on a budget makes it extremely tricky to actually purchase what I want, and it makes me more hesitant—I want to be sure that whatever I spend my money on is actually worthwhile. After months of thinking and planning and looking around, the most recent addition to our place is our mini-gallery.

Before we added the frames and the “G”s, this wall was pretty bare, and I wasn't sure what to do to make it seem warmer. I had seen a lot of different gallery walls online, and after a lot of back-and-forth I settled on the idea of our (soon-to-be) last name initial. I also wanted to avoid making the gallery seem too stiff, and I wanted to keep the possibility of vintage prints and keepsakes, so I decided to add a couple of silhouettes I had cross-stitched.

I found the Scrabble “G” and the metal “G” at Hobby Lobby on sale. The tan “G” was just a chipboard letter I found for less than a dollar and painted. I also painted the top right “G” on a canvas frame I found on sale. Hopefully in the near future I will find a few small prints to add to the open spaces (I would especially love some vintage airplane prints), but for the most part the wall is complete!