Friday, February 28, 2014

Best Easy Brussels Sprouts Recipe Ever

Life is Good: our bellies are full

I love Brussels sprouts. I mean, I lovvvvvvvvvvee them. I love them enough to wake up in the middle of the night, creep down the stairs, open up the refrigerator door, pull out leftover Brussels sprouts, and heat them up just so that I can sneak them before my husband does! And this is the recipe that wakes me up at night...enjoy!

Susie's Brussels Sprouts
20+ Brussels sprouts
1/4 c. water
4-6 slices of turkey bacon
balsamic vinegar, optional
goat cheese crumbles, optional
dried cranberries, optional

1. Chop up your turkey bacon and cook in a large pan. (I use this one.) Be careful not to burn it.
2. When cooked completely, remove turkey bacon and reserve in a bowl nearby.
3. In the same pan (keep "drippings"), pour in water and toss in Brussels sprouts. Cover with a lid and cook on low.
4. When sprouts are tender, remove lid and cut each in half. Continue to cook.
5. When there is no trace of water, add turkey bacon and continue to cook. Flip sprouts around infrequently.
6. When sprouts have a nice patina or "grilled" look to them, remove from pan.
7. Now your sprouts are ready to serve. Or you can give them a couple of dashes of balsamic vinegar to add another flavor level to the side dish. I like this one. For an even more decadent side dish, crumble some goat cheese and toss in some dried cranberries. mouth is watering!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Best Easy Homemade Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Life is Good: and comforting!

To say that it is freeeeeeeeeeeeeezing in Minnesota is an understatement. This has been the worst winter that I have experienced here. It seems like they are getting worse and worse. It's a good thing that the other three seasons are so incredible or Minnie and I might have to break up. (Prayers for spring to arrive SOON are appreciated!)

As I walked to the bus stop in the cold and worse, wind (sigh) yesterday afternoon, I decided that comfort food was on the agenda for dinner. And what is more comforting on a cold winter's night than homemade chicken pot pie? It is super easy.

3 large chicken breasts
2 1/2 cups water
1 T. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
1 T garlic
1 t. Pink Himalayan sea salt
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 pkg. frozen green beans (I use organic)
1/2 pkg. frozen sweet green peas (I use organic)
pie crust (use your favorite recipe or store-bought will do, too!)

1. Make your pie crust (or if you are using store-bought, take it out of the fridge or freezer). I use my grandma's recipe which makes enough for the bottom and top of a traditional pie. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large saute pan (here's the one I use), heat water to a boil and add chicken, herbs, carrots, and salt. When chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and once cool(ish), cute into chunks, cubes, or shred. (Your choice---I cut into chunks).

3. Remove half of the water, which is now a delicious, homemade chicken broth (also known as stock) and reserve in the refrigerator for another recipe (or if you are like me, give it to your children to slurp up like it is a fine delicacy! They love it!).

4. Add chicken back to the pan, along with the green beans and peas (or any vegetables that you and your family love) and cook for 5 minutes (so that the vegetables stay crisp).

5. Turn down heat to very low and one at a time, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour to the mixture, being sure to avoid lumps. The amount of flour you add depends on how your chicken cooks. This time, I added 10 tablespoons.

6. When your broth mixture turns opaque, turn off the heat on the pan.

7. Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray (you can also use butter). Place pie crust in the bottom of a muffin tin. Make sure that there are not holes or other openings on the bottom or sides.

8. Fill the crusts with your chicken/vegetable mixture all the way to the top.

9. Cover each "pie" with pie crust. Seal the edges. Gently, cut an "X" through the top of the pie crust (this allows for steam to escape the pie).

10. Bake for 17-22 minutes. The time all depends on your oven, so start watching your pies at about 15 minutes. I used a giant, "Texas-sized" muffin tin this time. You can use a regular-sized one or even a traditional pie plate. The vessel you use will affect how long your pot pie needs to bake. This recipe made enough for 8 large muffin-sized pot pies.

11. Use a knife to carefully pop the pies out of the tin, allow a minute or two to cool and serve. We had ours with a spinach salad. And then we chased the kids around the house to work off the pie crust carbs! ; )

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

School Rules

Life is Good: and entertaining

The big kid and I have a little ritual each day when he comes home from school. We unpeel our numerous layers (oh, can this winter be over yet???) and then we sit down at the dining room table. While he eats a snack, I go through his take home folder and we talk about school. I love the way he describes some of the work he does. And he never misses a detail in reflecting on his classmates. "So and so said the "s word"." (The "s word" is "stupid", I discovered with relief! Relief that the "s word" is not a four-letter word and relief that he still knows that "stupid" is not a word to say aloud. What an awful word.) He goes on to tell me that "so and so likes to talk about 'Pokemans' a lot", etc.

Our chats can be informative, enlightening, heartwarming and even a bit hysterical.  Today, he mentioned someone who just can't follow the class or school rules so I asked him to tell me about the rules at school. I had the laptop within reach, so I typed away and this is what he said:


No head bombs, face bashes, head dives, or going so fast like a skateboard crashing into people

No hitting or kicking or pushing or chest pushing

Say please and thank you

Raise your hand

Ask permission to ring the bell to say "it's the end of play time" or "it's the end of Science class"

We eat lunch at 6:45, I think. Or maybe 7:09

No screeching, no yelping, no yapping

No talking in the halls. Other classrooms might be learning something, so you need to be quiet.

If you bring a dog, don't poke it with a fork


No bringing hammers and nails and nailing things in the wall

I agree

No talking around lunch

No goofing around at lunch

Having boyfriends and girlfriends is not allowed. (A girl in his class said so. Her dad must have told her this!)

Raise your hand. Hands and feet to yourself. Sit up nice and tall.

And finally...

You should never keep butter in your hat.

Oh, this kid! He keeps us smiling. The "butter in your hat" line was all for my entertainment. He said it with a grin that showed off his dimple. I love how silly our children are. It makes me feel so blessed. I pray that they will never take themselves too seriously and always stop to giggle. These qualities can serve a person well in life.

Today, I opened his lunch box to see that he had eaten everything in it. I was so surprised. I pack a lot into his lunch bag each day, so he usually has leftovers. I asked him if he was especially hungry or if I just happened to pack all of his favorite foods? Nope. "I usually don't have time to eat everything because I have to talk to my friends. Today, I decided I didn't have to make them laugh so much or tell them about things, so I had more time to eat."

You can't make this stuff up folks. And you can't blame it on his daddy either. Feeling the need to chat your friends up is all on mama. Oh, sheesh!

And after I wrote this, I felt this graphic was appropos...

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Parenting a Two-Year Old

Life is Good: remember that

Our little one recently officially turned two and a half and boy, the last couple of weeks, he has been giving us a run for our money! He isn't falling asleep until an hour or more after we put him to bed, he isn't napping, he isn't eating much, he doesn't want to leave the house (I know kid, I'm over the coat-mitten-hat-polar vortex thing, too), he just plain doesn't want to do whatever we ask of him. "NO!" is an automatic response, though it is sometimes substituted with, "no".

And it is exhausting.

But I must disclose that these bouts of rebellion and frustration are not continuous. They come in spurts that seemingly last for hours but when actually checking the clock, last about 3-5 minutes. Okay, sometimes less than that, even. And to be fair, these momentous moments are sandwiched by absolute adorableness. We continue to be amazed and amused by the many new words and thoughts that are oozing out of our little one. He makes up his own jokes and then laughs uproariously at them. He plays pretend with dogs and pandas and Playmobil people who refer to each other as "honey" and always say, "please", "thank you", and "be careful". He says "shutdown!" instead of "touchdown" and can't go anywhere--I mean, anywhere--without a hat, helmet, glasses, or goggles or some combination of that. It is a fun time in the development of his personality.

Ah, development.

Yes, I'm pretty sure that is the culprit for this not enough sleep-not enough eating-no-no-NO intermittent storm we are in right now. And to be clear, I am aware that we are fortunate. I understand that our kids are pretty good in terms of personality and behavior. We've never gone through tantrums or public displays or revolt or some of the perfectly normal growing up issues that other friends of mine have faced. And I say that because I think it is always important to acknowledge your blessings and remember that it can always be worse. But I think because our kids have not gone through these kinds of growing pains, it makes the little interruptions of disorder and unrest feel that much more intense and foreign.

Whenever our kids go through these kinds of spurts, though, I try to look at what life has been like and search for the guilty party. Are they eating enough protein? Have they had too much sugar? Are they sleeping enough? Has our schedule been to full? And yes, could they be going through a growth spurt or a developmental phase? We forget that these small little people are accomplishing great feats and moving giant mountains every day. They don't come into this world fully functioning with an instruction manual. They are growing and changing and absorbing. They are delving and developing and adjusting. And we are their guides through it all. Through the excitement and awe of discovery and through the torture discomfort that sometimes comes with the process of growth and progression.

So I'm doing a lot of deep breathing these days. I continue to look for cues as to how to help our little one through these rough patches---eye contact & explanation, quiet, calm hugs, acknowledgment of feelings, respect. And I'm reminding myself that this is exactly where I want to be. That this is a sunny little life. Sure, the occasional "Tropical Storm Two-Year Old" will hit, but not for long. This is just a phase. Everything is just a phase. And this time we have together is ticking by. So I'll take a deep breath, count to ten, and remember that these bumps in the road are all a natural part of the path. And I'll remind myself that, really, they are tiny little bumps at that. And life is good, so I'll remember that, too.

(image from