Trial and Error: Chicken and spinach quesadillas

All ready to make Real Simple's chicken and spinach quesadillas.

All ready to make Real Simple's chicken and spinach quesadillas.

Two nights a week, my husband is not home for dinner so I cook for me and the kids and a leftover plate for him. It’s hard to motivate myself to cook something really involved. I want to throw something together quickly and easily so that preparing and clean-up aren’t difficult and I can move on to an evening with my family. I came across Real Simple’s Grilled Chicken and Spinach recipe and everyone loved it.

One thing you should know about me, I hate cooking with chicken. It’s too risky. There is too much responsibility and I am always afraid that I will kill someone by under-cooking it, but they could also choke on it if I overcook it. My family has become accostumed to eating dried out chicken just so mommy didn’t feel like there was any chance of it being undone in the center.

I have nothing against the chicken.  I will eat it at restaurants or even if someone else prepares it, but I really loath cooking it myself.

When I see a recipe with chicken, I have a propensity to gloss over it, or even just fear it the entire time I’m making it. But this recipe worked for me. Mostly because it uses those cheap rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.

Here is the recipe:

Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 20m

Ready for tortillas!

Ready for tortillas!

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat grill to medium. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, spinach, and cheese.
  2. Dividing evenly, place the mixture on one half of each tortilla. Fold over the other half to cover.
  3. Grill the quesadillas until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  4. Serve quesadillas with the avocado, salsa, and sour cream.

The finished product.

The finished product.

So how did it work for me? You can see that this is a really simple recipe with really easy steps. For me, especially on a night my husband is away, this is perfect. I thought it was incredibly tasty. The meat wasn’t dried out. It had good flavor and that alone helped set the tone of the meal. My kids like it, although they opened it up and ate the chicken and then ate the cheesy tortilla. Even reheated, my husband said it was awesome, and I often don’t get dinner compliments like that.

The best part was that it contained spinach and even the non-veggie lovers in our abode were surprised they couldn’t taste it.

The kids and I did not eat it with salsa. They also hate avocado so we skipped that too. Instead, I served it with a side of corn and some sour cream. It’s definitely going to be on our dinner table again this summer. I’m even thinking that this would be a great dinner for when we are camping.

Give it a try and let me know when you think.

 

Posted in Family, Recipes, Trial and Error | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Colliding Worlds

I am a bit of a technology nut. Okay, that’s actually a huge understatement. Let’s just say “I like me some gadgets!” If I wasn’t married with two children and a mortgage, I’d be all over buying the newest products all the time. Now I feel bad buying a compact flash card for my camera.

I’m all for the integration of media. Integrate away baby! Make everything you can accessible to me when I need it. And better yet, let’s equip our children for this world. My three-year-old can rock an iPad just as much as some of the Apple employees. I’m only half kidding. She can use a computer. And it is 100 percent important to me that from kindergarten on, her classroom has the ability to put that technology in her hands and teach her to learn from it.

I’d love to see her using an eBook in elementary school. There is no excuse for “oh I forgot my history book at school.” I’d love to see the classes using Twitter, not just to communicate to the outside world but so I know what they are doing in the classroom. Talk about a way to promote parental engagement and transparency. I want her to be able to use a mobile device to interact. Shy kids don’t always do well in class but if given the option to type an answer or respond to a discussion virtually, they blossom.

This weekend, at my sister-in-law’s high school graduation, this happened.

Commencement address from on Vimeo.

Think about the implications of this. Students communicating with teacher, teachers communicating with parents, students connecting with each other, not just in school but beyond. Do you know how many people I lost touch with over the years? We went on to college with the best of intentions but people didn’t return written letters because they got busy, phone numbers changed, e-mails were ignored. But now, we’ve reconnected and while we might not communicate every day, we do have an idea what is going on in the lives of our friends and, at least for me, it’s harder to drift away.

I couldn’t have been happier to see a teacher embracing this technology. On stage, in front of all of the students, parents and other educators. It was so exciting to see where this could go and know that I could be apart of it.

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Crafting: End of the year goody bags

My daughter had a really weird first year of preschool.

Her classes started with nine kids and, slowly, throughout the year, it trickled down to four. Of the remaining four, only three come on a semi-regular basis and most of the time, it’s only my daughter and one other boy.

The boy and my daughter have spent a lot of time together. They get along pretty well and I wanted to get something from her to him, as sort of a “thanks for sticking in the class with me this year” gift. And of course, I got one for the other girls in the class as well. I had no idea, initially, what would be a good gift for a four-year-old group, but then I remembered these fun little snack bags made by the lovely Cassie, which I made once before.

I sewed up a a few days, stuffed them with a soaker ball, a set of sunglasses and a note from my daughter and us thanking the kids for an awesome first year of school. It included our phone number and e-mail address so that maybe they can get together over the summer.

It was pretty inexpensive. I had the fabric and iron-on vinyl for the snack bags and I picked up the other items at the dollar section at Target (my favorite store). It was simple,  but it gave me the opportunity to say “thanks” and hand out our information to the other parents.

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Artsy Tartsy

I’m not artsy. I’m creative and inventive, but I’m not artsy. I don’t have the “magic eye” that artists have. One thing I do have: a camera. And I love to use it.

While we were in Holland for the Gleek Retreat, I had the opportunity to walk around town and the campus of Hope College and take some pictures. There was an official photowalk, but do to the two little beauties who traveled with me, I wasn’t able to attend. But I was thrilled to be able to get out, explore the new place and try to use my creativity to take some fun photos.

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Temporarily hearing impaired

Several weeks ago, we found out our youngest daughter, who suffers from chronic ear infections, was just not hearing correctly.This week, we finally may have nipped the problem in the bud. With a few ear tubes, we are pretty sure her hearing will be back on track.

My baby getting ready for her ear tube procedure.

My baby getting ready for her ear tube procedure.

I had long suspected that her speech was impacted by the fact that she suffered from 15 year infections over the course of a little more than a year. Our doctor figured that the fluid would eventually drain out and she would grow out of the small defect in her ear tube and we’d all move on. As a lover of words, I couldn’t put my daughter at a further disadvantage by not knowing if each infection was causing her any hearing impairment.

When our insurance finally allowed her to see a specialist without a referral (I think mother’s intuition should count) I high-tailed it to the ear, nose and throat doctor. He took one look at her and told me the problem was unlikely to self-correct. To be certain the problem was causing her to have trouble hearing, he opted to do a hearing test in the office that day. I was holding her through the entire test. When she didn’t respond to certain commands coming from the right side, I knew I was right. My baby was having hearing issues.

Ugh. Mommy guilt. How long had it been like this? Why didn’t I push for a referral to the ENT sooner? What exactly could my baby hear?

The ENT, who was great by the way, gave her a few weeks to see if it would clear up when the seasons changed. If it did, we could post-pone the tubes until the fall. Two weeks later we were back in his office and he called the fluid in her ears the consistency of Jello and we were told the tubes were going in.

I immediately thought of trying to get ear plugs in the ears of my two-year-old to allow her to swim in lake water. I worried that this wouldn’t help her hearing after all.

My worries still haven’t been addressed, but the ear plugs have. Yesterday, my sweet baby girl got her first set of fancy ear tubes and lost a lot of fluid. She came through the quick surgery as if nothing ever happened, she didn’t even make a peep coming out of the anesthetic. She hates the drops, but I would too.

Now we wait. In two weeks, we will know if it opened up the ears enough to allow fluid to pass through rather than back up. Hopefully she’ll be able to hear. Hopefully I didn’t do permanent damage to her speech ability. But whatever the next hurdle. we will cross that too.

Until then, here is my advice:

  • If you think something is wrong you have the right to question it or ask for another opinion.
  • Pediatricians are not ear, nose and throat doctors. Enough said.
  • The surgery, like everyone says, is easy, quick and simple. I’d hardly call it surgery. In fact, her’s wasn’t even at a hospital. It was held at a local surgery center.
  • If you have a young child who can’t eat after midnight the night before the surgery, load her up on meat and cheese before bed. Then wake her up at the last minute and don’t mention food or drinks.
  • If you have to arrive at the hospital, surgery center or other venue an hour before the surgery time, take lots of things to do. In our case, the iPad made all the different in the world.
  • Don’t plan to do a lot the day of the procedure. Even if they don’t need it, just cuddle your kid. We did lots of that. My kids don’t get enough one and one time and this was my opportunity to be mommy to the baby.
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Memorial Day shopping guilt

I feel guilty shopping on US holidays.

I have Memorial Day shopping guilt.

I will be the first to admit that I shopped yesterday. I really should have no shame in this, but I do. Mostly because I spent way too much money at Target, but also because I shopped. On Memorial Day. And I hate myself for it.

I’m glad the stores were open. Saturday my youngest came down with a super angry tummy and Sunday I sort of followed suit. Groceries and diapers had to be purchased. Plus we were running low on some staple items and I needed some teacher baskets for the end of the preschool year. I had no choice but run out to the store, on Memorial Day.

I have to believe that one of the downfalls of working retail is that you have to work all of the holidays that the rest of us get off. The days that we rush the stores looking for steals and deals. How can the employees truly respect the holiday for what it is when they are being forced to contribute to corporate greed?

When we go camping over holiday weekends, a lot of the small family-owned little shops are often closed. Sometimes it’s annoying because I’m there and I want to buy stuff, but I have utter respect for people who have the guts to close down their stores in honor of Memorial Day or Labor Day or New Years Day. Bravo. It shows, to me, the ultimate respect in the sanctity of the meaning of the holiday and not just opportunity to have a “sale” yet another day of the year.

So kudos to those who closed their doors and risked the profit loss to honor our veterans. I salute you.

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Trial and Error: My first recipe

I have way, way too many magazine subscriptions. I’m months behind in reading them all, but when I finally get around to reading them, I tear out about a third of all the pages and save them for “someday” apparently. Well, the day has come, dear readers, that day has COME! I have decided to start trying out the recipes, hair tips, craft ideas and gift suggestions that I have amassed over the years. I will post my results here, and probably over at Detroit Mommies, where I write frequently.

First up, a recipe. The Real Simple beef with Parmesan potatoes recipe to be exact. Keep in mind, I am no cook. I’m a mom with very little time and a couple of kids who love a food one day and hate it the next. My husband and I don’t want to sacrifice taste for our kids and I try to eat healthier than pre-packaged foods. So here we go.

Real Simple's Beef and Parmesan Potatoes Recipe was a great dinner for my family.

This recipe is apparently from the way-back machine, but I found it in my folder of recipes and decided to give it a whirl. It combines two things my family loves: beef and potatoes–yes we are that family.

The recipe is from the December 2007 issue of Real Simple, in case you were interested in going back and looking for it for your own records.

Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 40m

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. In a small bowl, combine the parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.
  2. Season the beef with 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the beef to oven and roast, 18 to 20 minutes for medium-rare (internal temperature 125° F). Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  4. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, divide among plates, and gently crush with a spoon to crack the skins.
  6. Drizzle the potatoes with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper, and Parmesan. Serve with the beef. Top with the parsley.

It took me less than an hour to make Real Simple's Beef and Parmesan Potatoes Recipe. And it was so juicy and tasty.

So how did it work for me? I thought it was great. It was so easy to make and the meat was so tender. My husband did the grocery shopping in preparation for this meal. He bought the beef tenderloin filets, I have no idea if that’s what this recipe called for or not, but it worked out fine.

I followed the directions pretty much to the letter, but, as a beginner-level chef, I was afraid to put my stainless steal pan into the over, so I transfered the beef to a cookie sheet lined with foil.

The potatoes took me slightly longer than 15 minutes to soften, but I was just using red skins. I had no idea how to find these particular type of potatoes.

I served it up with a side of canned green beans. No, I’m not kidding. I know, I know. But the base of the meal was fantastic and I would definitely make it again.

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