Friday, May 22, 2015

Ranch Chicken Pizza

Another week has come and gone. Hope it has been spectacular for you!

I had a full week. Gardening, working, shopping, tri training, cleaning, cooking. I am kind of amazed at how full it was. And I'm also wondering how in the world we manage to get school work done during the year...

I made this pie this week too. Recipe here.

The kids are continuing on with their Spanish. We had a heart to heart talk about doing it right and not fooling around. Do it right-earn Mine Craft time. Fool around-do more and more Spanish. Like-live, breathe, and eat Spanish. So far the bribery has worked...

Today's recipe is a pizza. We eat pizza every week around here, and I try to include a pizza recipe on most of the She Plans Dinner Variety or Classic Comfort menus. Which means that I am always looking for variations on the pizza theme. I make a green pesto pizza with chicken, bacon, feta cheese and Kalmata olives. I made a red pepper pesto pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, sausage and green olives. I make regular pizza. I make chicken fajita pizza. I make barbecue chicken pizza. I make chicken alfredo pizza.

And now I even make Ranch Chicken Pizza. It has a tangy sauce of cream cheese, ranch dressing and tomato paste. It is smothered with mozzarella cheese. It is topped with a colorful mix of vegetables-black olives, spinach, and roasted red pepper. It is so very delicious!

I originally made it for my sister in law's wedding shower. I made the pizza in my regular pizza pan, and then cut it into small squares. It was served more room temperature, and was great that way.

The next time I made it, I made it for us for dinner. So, it was hot, crispy and really good too. 


Ranch Chicken Pizza
1 package yeast
1 cup warm water
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chopped cooked chicken (1-5 oz boneless, skinless, chicken breast)
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, sliced
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup spinach
2 cups (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

-Combine flour, yeast, 1 tsp salt, and sugar. Add 1 cup of warm water and 2 Tbsp oil. Beat vigorously by hand until combined. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
-In a microwave safe dish, place boneless chicken breast. Lightly salt and pepper. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, venting one corner. Microwave on high for 10-15 minutes, or until the breasts are cooked through. Cool and cube.
-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
-Roll out dough into a greased pizza pan.
-Combine the softened cream cheese, ranch dressing, and tomato paste. Spread on the prepared crust.
-Top the crust with the sliced olives, cubed chicken, peppers, spinach. Sprinkle cheese over all.
-Bake at 450 degrees for 12-13 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Happy Memorial Weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wedding (and Weeding) Stuff

As I've been typing the word wedding this week, I've realized how easy it is to hit too many e's and type weeding instead. Which, in the case of my week, is actually okay. Because I attended a wedding, and am also intending to do a whole lot of weeding.

Mr. Hippie's youngest sister got married on Saturday. Mr. Hippie is #2 of 11, so there ended up being 17 years between him and his youngest sister. It was kind of scary that several members of the wedding party were actually closer in age to BMV than to us.

Speaking of BMV, he did his ushering quite well. I was proud of him. No terrible awkwardness. No big faux pas. Ironically enough, the worst mistake was sitting people towards the back, and not the front. I think he was just going on his basic church seating model. Everyone always wants the back seats at church. No one wants to sit in the front rows. So, he and his cousin seated people accordingly. An honest mistake that we discussed mid-seating...Ah well. Live and learn. Amazingly enough, the runner unwound like a charm and the row dismissals also went smoothly.

So, now all but three of Mr. Hippie's siblings are married, one of whom will be tying the knot in August. That would be the sibling in this photo. Who was rather engrossed in the Beverly Hillbillies. Which is how we kept our kids entertained during the photo session.

I loved Jennifer's dress-especially the skirt. It cascaded down in lots of fluffiness. It was gorgeous. She was gorgeous.

Some people decided that weddings are not the most fun activity in the world. I mean, the knocking around with your cousins before and after is. But, sitting for the ceremony? Not so much fun.

I decided to try for another family picture, since we were all dressed up. But, for some reason Mr. Hippie and his tie were doing some unfortunate leaning...Maybe next time...

Meres was completely thrilled with her cousin's flower "pebbles". These two are going to be the flower power at the next wedding. Which Meres is also totally thrilled about.

Speaking of Meres...I just heard a song that describes her to a "t'. Perfect Storm by Brad Paisley. "Sunshine and a little hurricane...she never rains, she pours." Sigh. I love her. She and LC loved dancing at the reception. They have no inhibitions. They don't care what anyone thinks of their moves. I think that is awesome! LC started bawling about 9:15. She was so sleepy and wanted to go home. Actually, that song fits both our girls.

I made LC a special hair do for the wedding. I am pretty sure I spent more time on it than I have cumulatively spent on her hair this year to date. But, I loved how it turned out. Her hair is thick and gorgeous. I wish mine was like hers.

This photo is important because it is the segue into the weeding portion of my post via the good view of my perennial garden in the back ground. 

My goal for my perennial garden is lots of bang for as little buck possible. And by buck I mean, time is money, and money is money. And I want to spend as little as possible of both in my garden. Low maintenance is the name of the game.

My perennial garden sees lots of shade, so I have to work with a very limited repertoire of flowers and plants that thrive in mostly shade. I have been cultivating this garden for a couple of summers, seeing what works and what doesn't. Perennials tend to grow in their footprint throughout the years, which means that plants that worked next to each last year, might need some moving this year.

I spend a couple weeks in early May watching how things are coming up this year, and then I start planning and scheming. What needs moved? What can stay? What needs thinned? What needs uprooted altogether?

I've got my plan, and I'm implementing it this week. Because school is done, as is the wedding, so I have time, and it doesn't matter if I chip my nail polish.

The first spring I spent major time on this garden, I repurposed an old bookshelf to use as a type of raised bed. It has now rotted pretty thoroughly, and I pulled it out. I had great potting soil in there though, so I am going to add some manure to it (gross! I've never used manure before) and scoot my two ever-bearing hydrangeas over a bit. And I am going to add a third hydrangea. That corner of the garden gets a decent amount of sunshine, which will benefit the hydrangeas. And manure is supposed to be good for them too. We'll see.

Other than that, I have a plant of some sort that has yellow flowers. I am going to move that where the hydrangeas are, as it is getting overshadowed by the plant next to it. I might purchase one more perennial this year besides the new hydrangea. Perennials are such an investment-between their sticker price and their life span. I will fill in the empty spots with some colorful annuals. 

Then I need to get working on my vegetable and herb gardens. The kids have been turning the soil in my green bean patch, so it shouldn't need too much preparation. The tomato patch is a disaster though. Lots of weeds and junk. I have the plants to put in there, I just need to whip it into shape.

And herbs. My oregano, thyme, chives and tarragon all came back this year. Which is par for the course-except for the tarragon. I've never had that come back before. I do have to weed out those pots, and then plant some new basil and parsley. Looking forward to garden fresh pesto.

The next few days are supposed to be warm and I think we are almost past the really chilly nights. I will be spending some hours out in my gardens. I can't wait to see how everything turns out.

Are you up to any weddings or weedings?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Shooting Myself in the Foot with Guilt & Fear

Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot. Not literally. (Though I could. Because I do have a really nice black and silver S&W 9mm.)

I shoot myself in the foot by making decisions based on a fear or guilt paradigm.

Fear that I am going to do the wrong thing. Fear of what people will think. Fear of what might happen.

Guilt that I'm not enough. Guilt that I've not done enough.  Guilt that I'm letting everyone down in my wife, mother, teacher, business owner spheres.

I run miles-which I don't feel guilty about. But, I start to feel guilty when the miles run mean I need a nap. And thus I am neglecting my family. And the kids are spending hours watching movies. And they made their own breakfast and now their own lunch. And what kind of an excuse for a mom am I???

What will people think?

Do you ever fall into this trap too? Are you with me?

I think we try mightily to not care what people think. In a lot of ways, we probably shouldn't care. But, the fact of the matter is, we do. We do care how people think we are doing on this whole life gig.

Sometimes people's opinions are looks that we intercept and assign dialogue to. Sometimes we don't need to assign dialogue, because a person has let us clearly know with their own words what they think of us and our actions. They've administered advice with out any grace or bedside panache.

So, we end up making decisions from a standpoint of fear. And this is what the Bible has to say about that...

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

Guilt is more of a self administered poison. And it is a poison. Because we manage to to steal our own joy and peace and contentment.

Instead of focusing on the positive, we are living in the negative. It is living a life of scarcity rather than enough and abundance. We play a reel of what we can't do and what we aren't doing, instead of what we can do and what we are doing.

It is rather depressing actually.

A while back our marriage counsellor had us pick out a trait for each other from Colossians 3. Something that we need to work on. Mr. Hippie picked peace for me. I think of that quite often.

Choose peace instead of guilt. Choose peace instead of fear. Choose peace instead of stress.

Choose joy. Choose to enjoy the moment and be happy in it. Choose not to think thoughts of if only.

Choose contentment. I've given what I've given, and done what I've done, and it can be enough.

What are you choosing today?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lemon Butter Chicken Recipe

This recipe that I have for you today gave me a chance to try a new technique. This technique involves browning stuff in an oven safe skillet on the stove top, and then putting everything in the oven to complete the cooking. I don't think I have ever done that before. I've browned stuff and put it in the crock pot, but never in the oven.

It made me want to get one of those gorgeous, colorful, oven proof skillets for photographic and tablescape value. We'll see. Maybe for my birthday...

Because I do not have a gorgeous skillet (only a serviceable oven proof one), I took the chicken out of the skillet and placed it in a bowl for a nicer photo. White bowls are as nice as colorful skillets.

So, the recipe...It's Lemon Butter Chicken. Lemon and Chicken is a very Greek flavor combo. And it's one I love. This dish was delicious, the preparation was a snap, and the chicken was tender and moist. So good.

I'm not exactly sure why the skin stays on. I might try making the recipe sans skin. Though Meres is a total skin eating fanatic. It's her favorite. She eats her own, and asks for everyone else's too.

I personally am going to up the lemon juice next time around also. I think a little more juice would make it even better. But, maybe it will make it worse. I'll let you know.

Lemon Butter Chicken with Rice
4 to 8 chicken thighs, skin on
1 Tbsp paprika
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp thyme
2 cups baby spinach

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Season chicken thighs with paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.
-Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Sear both sides of the chicken until gold brown 3-4 minutes per side. Drain excess fat and set aside chicken thighs.
-Mince garlic. Juice lemon.
-Melt 1 Tbsp butter in the skillet. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, parmesan, lemon and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Stir in spinach, and simmer until the spinach is wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet.
-Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
-Cook rice while the chicken is baking.
-Serve chicken over rice.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hashtag "All That Randomness"

Sometimes I feel the need to write a post full of complete randomness because there is much to say about many things. So here it goes...

1. Meres is quite the thankful supplicant.  She started her praying career by only thanking God for the food. Amen. Now she goes through her entire day, including everything she has done, thanking God. On Saturday, this included her trip to Meijer to buy my Mother's Day gifts. Which she specifically named as she prayed. She just couldn't hold in her excitement! #SoThankful

2. I cried after my race on Saturday. It wasn't tears of relief. It was tears of disappointment. It took me way longer than I wanted it to. Every time you run a race, you hope you beat your last time. I was 13 minutes over my last time. It sounds like excuses to me-but it was a hard race. It was raining and misting the entire time, so clothes and shoes were soaked. I still had a cold (and had had one for the last 11 days of training) and I felt like I had cotton in my head. I guess the moral of the story is, you win some and you lose some, but you don't give up. #TryAnotherDay

3. Speaking of the race... I saw the elite women runners warm up and start. These are the ladies who clock in at 1:25-1:35 minutes. For 15.5 miles. I've decided that it's all in the outfits. They sport booty shorts and running bras. That's it. If I had that outfit, I'd probably run faster too. #DressForSuccess

4. And speaking of elite female runners. And their outfits. Which show off their bellies... I was very thrilled to see a baby belly on one of the ladies. She has the stretch marks and the bump. Everything else was streamlined and toned. I was so proud of her. She has worked it, and earned the 1:25 time-with at least one kid. #MomRunnersRock
last day of school looks kind of pained, doesn't it? I'm like...just smile...

5. Mr. Hippie's youngest sister is getting married on Saturday. And BMV is an usher. He and his 14 year old cousin. I am hoping this is not a recipe for disaster. My mil told me that all he needs is black slacks and a white dress shirt. Except, all he needs, is a very ridiculous concept at this point in history. He is almost as tall as me, but his waist is about half my waist size. (well, not really, but it sure feels that way) Which makes it very difficult to find pants long enough, but skinny enough, for him. And I don't want to invest in anything expensive because he is bound to outgrow them before the next wedding in August. #ParentingIssuesTheyNeverToldYouAbout

6. My fingernails are blue again. Because LC is convinced that since blue is my favorite color, blue nail polish must be my favorite hue. It's not. I'm a reds and burgundies girl. But priorities, right?! Daughter gets you blue polish for Mother's Day-you wear the blue polish. #WhatIDoForLove

7. Padded bike shorts are the bomb! Like seriously. They look totally geeky. But, they make a huge difference. #NotEnoughJunkInMyTrunk

8. Mother's Day was great. I have chosen to lower my expectations, which is better for everyone. I stopped being a brat, and so did my kids. It just works out much pleasanter all around. I had a nice cup of coffee in bed (like always), went to church, went on a bike ride, enjoyed dinner that Mr. Hippie made with LC, and then took a walk with my sister-in-law. It was good. And humbling. My kids think I am the best mom in the whole wide world. I think that is pretty amazing. #MothersDay2015

9. My yard and garden are in need of some serious attention. But who's got the time for that? No, really, next week is the week. Weeding my perennial garden, moving plants, and planting a new one or two. Weeding the herb containers, and getting those planted too. And weeding my daisy pot, and getting those planted too. Are you noticing a weeding theme? I am. I'd do it this week, but I wouldn't want to mess up my blue nails... #BlueNailsVsGreenThumb

10. Today is our for the year! Tomorrow we will finish up our lectures. And then I smell freedom! #FinallySummerVacation

11. Mr. Hippie noticed that I've read a lot of Jill Mansell's books. I told him not to worry-I only have 1 or 2 left. #FluffAndStuffForTheWin

12. Flowers are the solution to everything. Well, excepting hay fever. But, they sure brighten a room! I've had flowers in vases in my room and in the dining room for the past month. They make me smile, and are so worth the investment. I like the $5 bouquets from Aldi just as much as the $25 bouquets from Meijer. Not that I ever buy the $25 bouquets for myself. Because I don't. But, Mr. Hippie tends to lean more that way, and who am I to complain? #FlowerPower

What hashtags are trending in your neck of the woods?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Safely Trusts in Her

Today I went to a bank not my own in order to deposit money in someone else's account. I was helped by a young woman who had these verses taped to her cubicle...

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life...Favor is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10-12, 30-31)

These verses are so familiar, but they got me pondering.

...the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life...

Adds a new dimension to 'til death do us part, doesn't it!

Does the heart of my husband safety trust in me? Does he know I will do him good and not evil, all the days of my life?

What exactly might that look like?

I think of things like reputation. Do I guard my husband's reputation? Do I keep personal, intimate things between the two of us? Am I discrete? There is a difference between asking for counsel from trusted sources and venting our dirty laundry to girlfriends and family. A virtuous woman knows the difference. When I am tempted to complain to a friend, I will often think about how my complaining will present my husband to the person I am talking to. Is it going to lower their opinion of him? Then, probably for the most part, I should keep it to myself.

What about finances?  That's another area of trust. Can my husband rest confidently in the fact that I will be frugal and prudent with his hard earned resources? Or do I consistently blow our budget?

What about relationships? Do I watch my interactions with other men, making sure they are always above reproach? Do I guard my heart, making sure that I am not desiring someone else's greener grass?

Doing good and not evil all the days of my life. I think this would include conscious and unconscious choices in every day life. Am I doing him good? But, I also think about the tongue. And how in times of anger, vindictiveness can creep in. The desire to hurt someone like they've hurt you. A verbal lashing. But, this doing good would rule that out. It would include a kind and forgiving disposition.

We could think that the fruit of the Virtuous woman's hands would be the food, clothing, business endeavors, etc. All the things listed in the previous verses.

But, I'm betting the fruit is more than that. It is the positive results of what we've invested in people and relationships. Fearing the Lord. Respecting our husbands. Raising our children. It's our interactions and our heart, more than having all our external ducks in a row.

How safe does your husband feel in your hands? 

Friday, May 8, 2015

14 Favorite Summer Recipes

Tomorrow is the day. Our 25k. The forecast looks rather bleak. The temps are supposed to start in the 60s, and move up from there. Which is really good actually. Perfect running temps. The bleak is that there is an 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms. That is not terribly awesome. But, we'll press on. And maybe we'll even be thankful for the rain in the midst of the race...

My running route yesterday took me past part of the race course. It made me feel all the feels. Which is not pretty. If I don't tamp it down, I start to get a little weepy and borderline hyperventilating. Did I mention I'm nervous? My cold last week meant that I didn't run the miles I wanted to. I missed one 7 mile run completely, and two of my 6 mile runs were shortened to 4 miles. Plus my 11 mile run on Saturday ended up only being 8. But, I did run 16 miles two weeks ago, so I know I can run the distance again. It just isn't going to be easy. But, then, it never is.

We've had a couple days this week with temperatures in the 80s. It feels so summery. I love it. Windows are open. I scrubbed off our picnic table so we can start eating out there again. Summer is almost here!

Well, technically it isn't. But, then again, summer break is almost here! One more week of school! That needs shouted from the house tops!

I am so very excited about summer break. I am looking forward to my bike rides and to a lazier schedule and to time spent outside whipping my yard and gardens into shape.

Since summer is eminent, though maybe not for a while, I thought I would share photos and links to some of our favorite summer recipes. The captions are links.
BBQ Chicken Pizza on the Grill
Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa (dairy-free)
Chicken Satay Lettuce Wraps (gluten-free, dairy-free)
6 Ingredient Grilled Chicken Tacos (can be gluten-free)
Chicken and Strawberry Spinach Salad (gluten-free, dairy-free)
Caprese Sausages
Shredded BBQ Chicken Burgers and Guacamole
Pulled Pork Sandwiches 
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad (gluten-free, dairy-free)
Merlot Burgers
Broccoli Salad
BBQ Bacon Wrapped Hotdogs (gluten-free, dairy-free)
Sweet Potato Nachos (gluten-free)
Panzanella Salad
Hopefully these recipes will get your wheels turning and inspire you to get cooking. I love how colorful and rather healthy most of the recipes look.

If you are still wanting some help for your summer menu planning, you can subscribe to a She Plans Dinner menu plan. There is a bogo sale happening this weekend for Mother's Day. Now through Sunday, when you sign up for any subscription, I will send you a coupon so you can get a comparable subscription for free. This would be perfect to use as a gift for a wedding shower or for your Mom for Mother's Day. (Buy now here!)

Anyway, have a magnificent weekend, and I will see you on Monday!