Week 8 – Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole

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This casserole looked yummy. Thankfully, it tasted semi-yummy just very bland. It needed seasoning. Salt and pepper is not enough. The funny thing too is that in their picture of the dish there is a green something on top, probably parsley. The recipe has no mention of anything green. But as usual, I followed the recipe exactly. My only changes were that I used precooked chicken from Costco instead of a roasted chicken and I made my own brown rice rather than buy microwavable brown rice to prepare. I will say that the cream cheese and milk mixture over the rice gave the dish a creamy texture. However, I am still pondering what I would add to give it a bit of flavor. Maybe thyme. Not rosemary or dill. If anyone has ideas, let me know. I suppose you could make it a spicy dish and add salsa to the creamy sauce. I prefer it to stay mild though. I highly doubt I would make it again because it took a lot of prep time. The rice is no problem in my rice cooker. Yet, the time preparing and cooking the garlic, leeks and carrots took forever. Oh yeah, wayyyyyyy tooooooo many carrots in this dish. Use less. My kids were like, “seriously Mom, this is carrot overkill.” I agreed. I will say that I like the panko with oil or butter topping. It really gives a casserole a nice crunchy texture on top which I plan to incorporate in tried and true casseroles in my recipe file. If you want something different, give this a try. Add seasoning. Let me know what you add and what works. Here the picture of my version of it. (Notice nothing green because I have no idea what they added.)
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I think part of my dilemma with this dish was the fact that I rushed it. It turned out as it should but the process wasn’t a fun one. I had been helping my son practice baseball in our front yard. It was a nice afternoon. However, at four o’clock I needed to start preparing the dish in order to eat by five o’clock. We eat early because of other sports practices in the evening. We strive to eat together as a family as much as possible. If we eat early, we can accomplish this. The preparation of this dish didn’t look time consuming but it was. Also, it used so many dishes to prepare so cleanup was a bit much. I had my sweet son out front waiting patiently for me to come pitch him some wiffle balls. I felt the pressure. I think if I had prepared this in a less time crunch environment, it would have made it into my keep file. Originally, when I planned this meal, we had nothing to do that evening. An extra practice came in at the last minute. It still was the only night that I could prepare a new dish. I had time but it wasn’t leisurely. I enjoy cooking new items in that type of environment. If it’s a known recipe, I can do a home cooked meal even if rushed. However, I have learned that these new dishes have a better chance of survival on a day I can enjoy the process. I guess that is my lesson this week, I need to enjoy the process. My son was patient, I was rushed. I did get to pitch him some balls while the casserole cooked. It all worked out. We had a nice dinner but had to add a lot of salt and pepper.

This recipe suffered the fate of rejection because of my rushing. What else suffers in my life when I rush? My kids? My husband? My friendships? My time with God? All of those things. I was rushing for a good reason (to be with my son) but still rushing. Cooking should be enjoyed. Relationships should be enjoyed. I have of late been cutting back in over-scheduling. I won’t meet a friend for breakfast and another friend for lunch. One friend a day. Even if the amount of time I spend with her is the same as before, I enjoy the moment more. I am more present. Rushing keeps my thinking “what’s next?” Savoring keeps me thinking “what a lovely moment.” I hope you have lovely moments this week. Savor each thing you choose to invest your time in. I encourage you to invest most of your time in relationships. Especially God. We are in the season of lent where we anticipate Jesus’ death and resurrection. My Bible study just ended and I am seeking a new way to interact with God during the next few weeks. I don’t have my answer yet but daily I savor Him in different ways. I read an online devotional, listen to a podcast of a pastor from another church, or I just sit in His creation, pray, and savor. Savor your relationships this week.

Dream Big!

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Week 7 – Quiche Me – it’s Valentine’s Day

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I will be honest up front, this isn’t a totally new recipe to me. I have made it once before a long time ago. However, the week flew by and I needed a recipe. I decided to make Quiche for the family on Valentine’s Day and found this old recipe in my files. It is sooooo good. I actually wrote at the bottom of the recipe “Pass along – yummy.” I am sharing it with you this week. It truly is scrumptious. We devoured it. Actually, we ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture. I have the recipe though (Real Simple, January 2009).

I used one large onion instead of 2 medium onions. I had no parsley so I had no greens in it. I was going to add broccoli that I had in the refrigerator but I knew the kids wouldn’t eat it. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I decided to forgo greens. I added a 5th egg because I wanted more egg. Lastly, I used the cheese I had at home. It wasn’t Gruyère. I used 3/4 cup of Fontina and 1 1/4 cups of Quattro Formaggio from Trader Joe’s (picture of bag below). I highly recommend the Trader Joe’s cheese for Quiche. It’s fabulous. The kids suggested we add ham or bacon next time. I used a frozen pie crust I had in the freezer. You don’t need to thaw it, just pour the filling in and bake. Mine overflowed a bit onto the pan. Thankfully, I thought to put a cookie sheet with a lip underneath it.

I’m not sure how your family spends Valentine’s Day but since it’s normally on a school day, we have the tradition to celebrate at breakfast together. Today, we had strawberries, juice, Quiche, hot tea, and donuts. The kids got a few small gifts and of course, conversation hearts. However you celebrate, if you even celebrate, one thing to remember today is how much God loves you. I wrote my kids cards and said how much I love them. As I was writing, I was struck by how much more God loves them and me. It’s overwhelming. Although it may be a cliché verse (is that possible?), it says it best.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

The rainbow haired guy at the football and baseball games has it right. God loves us sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. We all have the ultimate Valentine if we choose to believe. Hoping you embrace His unconditional love today.

Dream Big!

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Week 6 – Stuffed Pasta

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Long week but I found time for a new recipe. Saturday night I made this for my family. Most of us liked it but decided it needed more seasoning. The recipe only called for garlic, salt and pepper. Not enough flavor. Also, I felt the ground beef tasted not only bland but a bit heavy. I always make a recipe as written the first time. Next time, I will add some seasoning and will use ground turkey. As you can see, another recipe with a lot of cheese. At least it added some flavor. In a pinch, I would make this with store-bought pasta sauce.

This was a fun recipe to make. I have never attempted homemade pasta sauce. I didn’t even know that large shell pasta existed to buy and stuff yourself. I found it inspirational to make. It had been a busy week and I enjoyed my hour in the kitchen preparing. I missed cooking “real” food this week. Lots of simple meals and a few frozen. Baseball, soccer, scouting, and other things filled our week. Having time to cook and prepare food fresh cleared my mind. I actually thought of other ways to stuff the shells to make them yummy. Maybe I will experiment with this recipe a bit. I am finding my cooking time is more refreshing that it has been in the past. These new recipes are a challenge but also a motivation. It is another busy week ahead but I will attempt to find something to add to the menu from scratch.

My encouragement to you this week is to find out what meals you prepare that relax you or inspire you. Make those regulars on your meal rotation. The time in the kitchen can be an escape from a busy week. I think I was more stressed making grilled cheese one night than the night I made the pasta. The main difference: I was not rushed to make the pasta. The grilled cheese night was make something quick, easy, and it needs to be ready 5 minutes ago. Those are not fun moments in the kitchen. This week I have one weeknight without a crazy schedule. I look forward to my kitchen time that day. On busy days, we need to eat. We do. On more relaxed days, we need to eat but we also get to savor the food and each other. Hoping for more of those days in our homes.

Here is my picture of my finished product and the recipe.

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Dream Big!