Monday, February 08, 2016

Saving Time in the Kitchen

One place I have really had to learn to be intentional is in the kitchen.  Having four people eating 3 meals from home every day really adds up quickly.  The time spent cooking and cleaning up can quickly be overwhelming, especially in the midst of all of our other everyday tasks.  

I've found that keeping a few things on hand in the freezer that can be used to whip up a quick meal with little cooking is extremely helpful on busy days.  We all know there are tons of advantages to eating home-cooked meals as much as possible.  Lately, I've been keeping my freezer stocked with cooked, shredded chicken that can be used in skillet meals, soups, chili, or even quesadillas or burritos.  Using my crockpot means it takes hardly any time or effort, so it's easy to squeeze in during a busy week.

I like to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Aldi when they have them as the special buy of the week.  I bought some for $1.49/lb. this week!  Other great places to buy them inexpensively are from warehouse clubs (we only have Sam's Club) or Harris Teeter.  If you have a Harris Teeter in your area, they always have chicken breasts in the fresh meat counter for $1.99/lb as an E-VIC special.

I cook several pounds of chicken breasts in the crockpot at once to stock my freezer with seasoned shredded chicken.  I usually cook around 5 pounds at a time, and I am a bit of a spice snob when it comes to cooking them.  Usually, I'm OK with inexpensive spices, but I've found that I can tell a difference when it comes to this chicken.  I love Penzey's black pepper, and their roasted garlic and onion powders.  Here's what I've found works for me:

5-ish pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp roasted garlic powder
1 tsp roasted onion powder

I rub the seasoning on the chicken and place them in my crockpot to cook on low for around 8 hours. You could add a little olive oil to your rub if you'd like.  You could also experiment with your own garlic and onion powders or even fresh to see how you like the flavor as well.  

I let the chicken cool a bit.  Then I shred it with two forks, and I package it in approximately 2 cup portions.  From my last batch I got 3 baggies to freeze, and I use one large breast for some white chicken chili that night.  I'll often heat up a bunch of veggies or beans or something in a skillet and add the cooked chicken for a quick made-up recipe.  

Once you know what types of flavors your family likes, you can experiment with your own made-up skillet recipes.  Do they like Asian flavors? Try zucchini and carrots with some soy or Teriyaki sauce.  You can even add some cooked rice to the skillet.  Do they like Tex-Mex flavors?  Throw in some sauteed onions, a can of black beans, and a can of diced tomatoes or Rotel.  Season it with some cumin and maybe even a little chipotle chili powder, and you have a yummy meal.  My boys especially like this when I add some frozen corn near the end!  I appreciate how having this pre-cooked chicken in the freezer saves me from the drive through, and my wallet does too!

Monday, January 25, 2016

New Years and Fresh Beginnings

I've always love the way that a new year seems to hold so much possibility.  With a little rest over the holidays, I can usually spend some time planning for new routines and setting goals.  It feels great to go into a new year prepared and refreshed.  It's kind of like having a fresh beginning and a blank slate at the start of each new year.

My hopes are raised with the countdown to midnight, but all too often it dwindles as we sink back into mundane days filled with never-ending chores and too little daylight.  This year, for some reason, I've been especially prone to dreaming of a sunny beach.  January has been a bit nutso at our house largely due to an unfortunate loss of all of my files from the last two years.  Their loss was only made more bitter as I've kicked myself for not being more organized and on the ball with backing things up. It's been a real exercise in thinking positive thoughts, remembering who is ultimately in control of all things, and reminding myself that there really more important things in life than a bunch of files.

It's also been nice to be distracted by getting myself more organized.  I've been on a mission to use tech tools more in my organizational routines.  In the past I've been mostly paralyzed by the thought of setting it all up--or even deciding how to set it all up.  Look for a book review in the near future where I'll share what's working wonderfully for me right now.  I'll never fully forsake pencil and paper, but it's nice to have a quick way to collect all my random thoughts and tasks in one place. Would you like to join me in planning intentionally this year?

With the new year before me, I always like to have a calendar to make my goals, hopes, and ideas a bit more visual.  I whipped up a simple one that I wanted to share.  I hope your new year has been off to a great start, and I look forward to sharing more printables with you all throughout 2016!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Download a FREE Event Planning Page!

This time of year can begin to get  With all the decorating, special events, visiting friends and family, and holiday parties, I often find myself rushing around like a crazy person.  This year, I have a couple of different events that I'm either in charge of planning or hosting in my home, and I needed a place to keep all of my thoughts about each of them together but separate.  That's why I created this simple event planning page, and I wanted to share it with you all.

I hope this will help you to organize their parties or other events, so you can steal a few extra minutes with those you love in this season.  Click the image below to download your PDF planning page!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Best-ever Pencil Sharpener in Purple!

(I received a free purple pencil sharpener to review, but that has not affected the opinions I am about to share)

I've posted here before about my love for the pencil sharpeners from Classroom Friendly Supplies, and I still believe they are the best you can get.  I especially appreciate when a company that makes an excellent product also acknowledges the value of bringing a little color to our everyday lives!  The purple is surely going to bring some fun to classrooms and homeschools!  

I first discovered these sharpeners through the recommendation of a friend of mine who is also a homeschool mom (of 6) and tutors additional children throughout the week.  I've been using a green sharpener at home for the last couple of years, and I have a red one that's used by my weekly homeschool community.  We've even placed bulk orders, so other moms in our group could purchase their own pencil sharpeners with the discount!  My friend has been known to give them as gifts!

The Classroom Friendly Supplies sharpener took me a few minutes to figure out when it first arrived because it has features I'd never seen before.  Thankfully, there are instructions on the site that show you exactly how to operate the sharpener.  Pictures and video are included for those of us who need to see things to figure them out.  

 Once I saw how it worked, I fell in love with this sharpener.  I love that there is a silver piece that pulls out and actually holds the pencil for you!  This means you can use one hand to steady it as you turn the crank arm rather than having to bolt it down, although it does come with a clamp to attach it to a table or shelf.  My kids carry it all over the house whenever they are working, so the portability is awesome.  The pencil holder also means it's easy for my 7-year-old to use it on his own.  Another fabulous feature is that the sharpener loosens dramatically when the pencil is sharp, so I can buy the expensive pencils without worrying that they will get eaten up by over-zealous little boys.

There may be a danger of little boys thinking the sharpened pencils are weapons because they are REALLY sharp.  Unfortunately, this is more a hazard of little boys than of sharp pencils.  They are amazing at finding potential weapons.  I, personally, appreciate a super sharp point on a traditional pencil.

If you've been searching for a high quality, easy to use pencil sharpener for your classroom, office, or homeschool, this could be the one.  If you are a lover of all things purple then today is your lucky day.  You can now order a "popular purple" pencil sharpener in addition to the other fun colors!

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Psalm 145:1-3 Printable

Do you work on Scripture memorization?  Our church family is working on memorizing Psalm 145 together throughout the fall.  We're beginning this week with the first three verses.  To help keep the words in front of my face, I made this black and white printable page.  If you'd like to download or print it, you can click the image below!

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