Thoughts

Expect no pretty pictures from this post. 
Today, I’m simply sharing my thoughts.
This week has been a welcome relief in my life. It has been so nice to sleep as long as I like each day, to sit on the couch in my jammies and write blog posts and lurke message boards and read books.
It has been so long since I’ve just been able to breeze through a book for pleasure.
I missed that.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life, and I love my job. But sometimes, it’s nice to have no obligations.
I’ve cooked just for the pleasure of it. I’ve read just to know the story. I’ve gone out in the sunshine just to play with the puppies.
It has been so nice.
And now, it’s coming to an end. 
There are so many things waiting for me… contracts to complete, paperwork to fill out, questions to answer. I’ve procrastinated all week, just basking in my freedom, and now I feel like I’m behind again.
It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever get used to.
There are so many things I still want to do with my free time. I want to make Easter packages to send to my neice and nephew. I want to decorate Twilight-themed sugar cookies for the New Moon DVD release on Saturday. I want to plant flowers in my yard and purchase a tomato topsy-turvy grower.
But instead, tomorrow, I will work. I will fill out paperwork and create pages and scan artwork. 
And soon, so soon, it will be the end of the school year and I’ll have all summer to bask in my freedom.
Then, I will find things to do around the house to occupy my time. Books to read. Recipes to cook. And the cycle will begin all over again.
I’m so thankful that I was able to find a career that I love, something that is new and exciting and different each day. 
I am thankful for the freedom of a flexible schedule, even if it feels like I can barely make it through February and March.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and this week helped show me that.
So now, I’m going to go read some more and plan my cookies and think of things other than work. 
For next week, the work begins again. 
I can’t escape it. 
And right now, I’m okay with that.

My Favorite Color

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Green is my favorite color.
So, I thought I’d share a very St. Patrick’s Day-ish post showing you just a few of my favorite things.
Luckily, James’ favorite color is also green, so he puts up with my collecting. :)
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This is one of my favorite purses. I reminds me of spring!
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This colander was the first green dish that I bought. Now I have lots of green dishes!
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Like these plates. This was our everyday china that we registered for our wedding. We have dinner plates, salad plants and cereal bowls in this color. Love them!
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Love these glasses! I found them recently at Target. The green matches our dishes exactly! Score!
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Gotta have dish towels to match the dishes…
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This canvas is one of my favorite wedding presents. It was given to us by my friend June. It has our wedding date on it and a “B” — I like collecting B’s now, too. :)
Hope your day is filled with lots ‘o green and no pinching!

Louisiana Chicken Pasta

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This meal is delicious. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time. It’s so simple and easy to make. Seriously, go make this right now. :)
Louisiana Chicken Pasta
Adapted from: Newlywed Nibbles
The Cast of Characters:
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1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked and cubed
2 Tbsp of butter
8-10 oz of bowtie pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. water
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Directions:
Put 1 Tbsp of butter and the olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium heat. Add the cubed chicken and season with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning.
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Cook the chicken thoroughly, until the edges are golden brown.
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Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl. Add the rest of the butter to the skillet (don’t clean the skillet first) and throw in the bell pepper and onion.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water according to package directions.
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Add the Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir well and cook until the peppers and onions begin to soften.
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Meanwhile, add the cornstarch and water to a small bowl and whisk to combine.
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Once the peppers have softened, add the whipping cream to the skillet and mix well.
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Simmer until the mixture starts to bubble.
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Add the cornstarch mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. The sauce will really start to thicken.
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Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, along with the chicken and tomatoes.
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Stir well.
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Serve in bowls and garnish with chopped tomatoes.
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Doesn’t that look yummy?

I Have A Plan

A menu plan that is.
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Lately, I’ve been reading the What’s Cooking message board over at TheNest.com. I get lots of recipe ideas and advice from the super awesome ladies over there.
One thing many of them do is a weekly menu plan. I figured since it’s Spring Break and I have time, I should jump on the bandwagon!
First, I printed out the menu/grocery list from here.
Then, I decided what recipes I wanted to make for dinner this week:
Wednesday: Dr Pepper Pork Chops
Thursday: Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff
Friday: Frozen Pizza (original, huh?)
Saturday: Chicken Tostada Upside-Down Bake
Sunday: Meatloaf
I’ll link back to the recipes once I’ve made and posted them. And on Sunday, I’ll let you know how well we did in sticking to the plan.
Hopefully, this will help save money as we’re not eating out every night. My grocery store bill for this week was $108, but I had to buy some staples, like corn starch and Cajun seasoning, etc., that I haven’t had a need for.
Maybe next time I won’t have to buy those things, too.
And the leftovers will be great for lunch.
What do you think? Does it help to plan your menu in advance? Any recipes you think I should add to my repertoire?
Happy Tuesday everyone!

Chicken Parmigiana

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Yesterday, I decided to make the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Parmigiana for the first time ever.
Chicken Parmigiana is one of my favorite Italian dishes. I love, love, love it.
But let me just disclose this right up front — the sauce in this dish is *sweet*. And I’m not a fan of sweet marinara sauce. I like my marinara tangy. So, even though I love and admire the Pioneer Woman, I will continue to search for the perfect Chicken Parmigiana dish.
You’ve been warned.
Chicken Parmigiana
The Cast of Characters
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4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1/2 cups Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
3/4 cups Wine (white or red)
3 cans (14.5 Oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cubes Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Spaghetti, cooked Al Dente
First, put the chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and pound to thin with a kitchen mallet. I’m not fancy like that, so I used a heavy can.
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Mix flour with some salt and pepper and dredge the chicken breasts in it.
Put the butter and Olive Oil in a large skillet and warm on Medium heat.
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Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook until one side is golden brown.
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Flip ’em over and brown the other side.
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Once they’re nice and toasty, remove them from the skillet and set aside.
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Now, *don’t* clean the skillet. Chop up the onion and garlic and add it to the juices.
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You want it to be nice and golden.
Let’s pause for a moment so I can tell you about these super-awesome herbs I use. 
I like fresh herbs just as much as the next gal, but I have to buy fresh herbs each time I use ’em cause they go bad before I have a chance to whip up my next recipe.
So, I found these freeze-dried herbs at our local grocery store. They’re great, because you use just as much as you would fresh herbs (You know how you have to use less if you use a dried herb? Not a problem with these!). Plus, no refrigeration required — just stick ’em in the cabinet and use them the next time you need ’em!
Here’s the garlic…
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And the parsley…
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Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
Here’s where you add some white or red wine to the onions and garlic.
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I like a little wine with my dinner.
I used some of our wedding wine. We still have about a dozen bottles of it in the pantry.
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It’s a sweet Riesling, which probably didn’t help with the whole sweet marinara sauce. Oh well. You live, you learn.
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Give it a minute to reduce and cook off some of the wine. You want it to be a nice golden brown color when it’s through.
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Now, add in the crushed tomatoes.
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Let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes.
Stir in the parsley and drop in the breaded chicken breasts.
Cover the chicken with shredded Parmesan cheese and cover the pan. Cook on low for a few minutes to let the cheese melt.
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Serve with spaghetti topped with sauce and the chicken.
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Enjoy!

Not Me Monday

 

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.
Last week was sooooooo long. This week is Spring Break, and sometimes it felt like I was never gonna make it.
But I did!
Mom and Dad came over Friday night and spent the weekend with us. We went to see Alice in Wonderland on Saturday night. It was really good. We saw it in 3D IMAX, which was even better.
On Sunday, I cooked lunch (tortellini with pasta sauce) and helped my dad make dinner (steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans). Mom helped me make M&M cookies — I’ll post the recipe later. It was delish.
And here’s what I did *not* do: I did *not* have a dirty kitchen until my totally awesome mom helped me was all the dishes and clean all the countertops. You see, dishes are my least favorite chore.
Since I hate to wash them, there are *never* more dishes than I have room for in my dish washer, so I *never* leave the leftovers to clean on another day. And, as you imagine, I *never* got around to doing them.
Wanna see what it looked like after?
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Look at those clean dishes! Aren’t they fabulous?
Mom and Dad left this morning. Mom flew to New Mexico to visit my sister and nephew. Dad went on a fishing trip with some friends.
So, we’re “babysitting” their puppies for them.
And here’s where my next confession comes in. We totally do *not* let our dogs sleep with us. We are *not* those people. Yeah, right.
We got a King-sized bed as a wedding present from my boss. He’s a great man. So you would think that with a HUUUUGE bed, I would have plenty of room at night, right?
Wrong.
Imagine this pup…
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Curled in a little ball on my right side.
And this one…
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Right beneath her up against my legs.
This one…
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Likes to sleep behind my legs in the bend of my knees.
And finally, this one…
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Insisted on being right up on my pillow behind me.
All of them had to touch me. Including my husband. At times, it felt like I was a mummy, wrapped inside my blanket. The pups, except for Kaylee, all slept on top of the covers, preventing me from moving very much.
So, you can imagine my night.
I’m a little sleep-deprived.
Well, that’s all for me. Happy Spring Break!

Fetch 101

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This is Kaylee. She *loves* to play fetch.
So, when it’s beautiful and sunny outside, we like to oblige.
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There are two things you need to play fetch. The first is a willing dog. The second: an Alfalfa spike.
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Kaylee runs as fast as she can to go get the ball.
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Sometimes she brings it back.
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But not all the way.
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And then she’s off again!
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Sometimes she has more fun entertaining herself.
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She’s ready for anything!
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Georgie likes to watch.
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Bella did, too. For a while…
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But soon, she was ready to go back inside.
It was hot, so we agreed. But only after Kaylee had one more run:
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Isn’t she cute?


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