Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Chicken

I have been cooking like a wild woman since Josh got home, and I found another fabulous recipe on Pintrest! This one maybe be the best yet! It isn't really the healthiest recipe in the world with the cream cheese and frying chicken, but I used low-fat cream cheese and would have cooked the chicken in the oven (had I not be a moron and decided to spray EasyOff in the oven before dinner). I didn't use the oil, and just cooked the chicken in the skillet that I cooked the bacon it. It's super tasty so I'll make this one again! 

Ingredients
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
4 strips bacon, cooked and diced
4 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs 
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels. 
2. Stir together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, bacon, and jalapeños in a small bowl. 
3. Cut a pocket horizontally through the thickest side of each chicken breast, and fill with 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Secure with toothpicks. 
4, Roll the chicken breasts in bread  crumbs to coat. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook chicken breasts until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 8 minutes per side. If your chicken breasts are thick, they can be finished in a 350-degree oven. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Soccer Mom!

Gray had his first official soccer practice this week, and he was pretty thrilled.... For the first 30 minutes. 

I should begin by saying that it is practically impossible to find toddler soccer gear. His socks are for a 10 year old, so I'm checking Amazon for something smaller. The Exchange happened to have some awesome Adidas outfits and the tiniest shin guards ever (which are so flipping cute BTW!). He was outfitted and ready for his first practice, then he decided he did not want to go. I mentioned that his girlfriend was going to be there and all of the sudden he wanted to try it out.

He loved it and was doing really well (for a 3 year old) for about half of the practice. I think he was getting tired because he sat down and wouldn't participate anymore. He is the funniest grumpy kid you have ever seen with his furled brows. 



Daddy got to leave work a little early (5pm) to see Gray's first practice! 


This is Gray refusing to participate. 
This soccer program is another great way the USMC is doing great things for families of Marines. Everything is done through the base and it's very inexpensive to enroll your child. The coach is a Marine, the practices are on base, etc. I'm not sure if this happens in every branch, or at every base, but I plan to sign Gray up for as many sports he in interested in trying while we are here and have the opportunity! 

And before you ask, I'm not getting a mini-van. 

Quilting!

I haven't set aside much time lately for some 'me time' with all the craziness of travel, partying, visitors, etc. I decided that this week was the week for some sewing. I had to have one of my machines worked on back before I left for the holidays because Gray loves the presser foot, and I foolishly left it on when I walked away for a second for a glass of water. He somehow managed to destroy something in the machine in .3 seconds, so it was off to the shop for a cleaning and repair. In the mean time, I figured I could get some quilting completed before our trip (as I had just finished a quilt and wanted to get it finished for Christmas gift) with my other machine. 

Mom gave me a Bernina several years ago that she never could seem to get working. I took it with a very humble comment like, "I'm sure it's the operator, not the machine." She generally is the problem with technology, but in this case she was right. This machine, while pretty expensive, gives me more trouble than it's worth. It needs to be re-gifted back to her but I doubt she would take it back from me knowing it's history of being a trouble-maker. With the deck stacked against me, I decided I could hand quilt the quilt (which is hilarious as I've finished about 1/4 of the quilting since November) and wait until my good machine was fixed. 
Lots of baby things for pregnant friends are now in boxes to be shipped! 
The VW fabric is what I centered the quilt fabric around
because Josh could die happy if he had a VW Bus. 
Now the machine is fixed, and I'm taking full advantage of Gray's new train table and the amount of time he is spending with it this week. I have gotten a great deal of things done that were on the 'to do' list and gotten pretty far along into a quilt for Josh. I have been buying the fabric for this quilt gradually over the last year and deciding on a pattern, but I finally cut into it yesterday. At the rate I'm putting it together, I'll be done in a few days! Hopefully I'll have a completed top to show you soon, but for now I'm headed back to the sewing machine! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cheating...

Since we were traveling so much over the last 6-8 months, I wasn't very good about blogging what was happening in my life. Over the last few days, I have gone back in time and posted about those things that I missed. I had several of the blog posts already going but never got around to actually posting them for you to see. 

That said, I know it's cheating to go back and blog about things that happened months ago, but this blog is as much for my memory as it is for your entertainment, so I decided you wouldn't mind. I guess if you do mind, don't scroll back to the recently added entries. :) There is new stuff all the way back to our trip to Yellowstone and DisneyWorld  (both of which I'm still working on at the moment and will be added ASAP.) last summer, so when you have a few minutes go back and catch up on all the things I didn't blog about at the time!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Crispy Tilapia in Tomato Cream Sauce

I found this recipe on Pintrest from www.eatingwelllivingthin.wordpress.com and decided to try it. It seems like most fish recipes are the same old lemon pepper or whatever, but this one sounded (and looked) great! I really love fish because it's good for you, but also super quick to make. I am glad we tried it because it is really good. If you are looking for a new/tasty way to cook fish, try this recipe! You won't be sad!

Crispy Tilapia in Tomato Cream Sauce
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup favorite spaghetti sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons Half & Half
4 (4-5 oz) tilapia fillets
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup Panko crumbs
1 teaspoon salt-free Italian seasoning
Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. In a medium sauce pan, over medium-low heat, bring the sauce and garlic to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, allow to cook until reduced by half. The sauce will be come dark red and thick. Stir in the cream and heat through. Keep warm. (I would recommend starting this after you get the fish going.)

2. Rinse and dry the fillets and set aside. In three pie plates (or shallow dishes), place the flour, salt and pepper in one plate; the beaten egg in another plate; and the crumbs mixed with seasoning in the third plate. Coat each fillet with the flour mixture, dip in egg until covered, and then press on the crumbs.

3. Heat a frying pan on medium to medium-high heat until very hot. Add a little olive oil and fry the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side until crispy-golden and fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove to a platter and spoon the sauce over. Garnish with Parmesan. Makes 4 servings.

I fried the fish in olive oil this time, but next time I think I'll try baking the fish. It takes a little longer, but I feel like it may be easier and it has to be healthier. I also think I'll try catfish next time. I'm guessing that any mild white fish should substitute easily. Seriously this fish was so good! You should try it!

Gray's Pirate Party!

I am sitting down to write this blog post and I am wondering where the time has gone. I can't believe my 'baby' is 3 years old! We had his birthday party the weekend before his birthday, so Mom, Jennifer, and Claire could be here to celebrate with us.

For the second year in a row, San Diego weather foiled our attempts at an outdoor party. It is generally nice outside, with little rainfall every month (and an average of 11.25" a year in the 90's) but somehow Gray's birthday weekend hasn't been so great for outside celebrating. Next year we are going to plan for an inside party and it will probably be beautiful. After the party was all said and done, the 70% chance of rain turned out to be a really bad guess because besides the wind, the weather was fine. 

Josh got a smaller (non-pirate) bounce house than we had originally rented and set it up in the living room. The kids didn't mind jumping indoors, so I guess that turned out alright too. Besides planning for a party in the park and therefore having no real activities for the kiddos, I think everything went pretty smoothly. 

Remove a little furniture and you have an indoor bouncy house!
Gray and Claire jumping pre-party! 
A friend of mine received a cake pop maker for her birthday last month, and she wanted to try it out. We spend about 5 hours that weekend making pirate cake pops. They were a hit with everyone, even though some adults didn't want to eat them because they were so cute. :) I'll be the first to admit that the cake pops were super delicious because we had a few mess-ups that needed to be sampled the night we made them. 

I decided to make the cake myself again this year. I swore last year that I would never do it again, but I guess I had forgotten about how much of a pain it was... This year I had a little more advice on the how to's of cake decorating, so it was a little easier but I had to freeze it at least three times to make the icing cooperate. In the end, I think it turned out ok but I'm going to swear again that I'll never decorate another cake! Maybe this year I can find a cake place in SD that doesn't want $70+ for a cake.... If you know of anyone, I'm open to suggestions. 
Pirate Pops! 
The problem was finding something cute to put them on, so I came up with this solution. 
Pirate Cake! 
Blowing out the candles.
Gray says 'Rrrr Mateys!

As far as Gray was concerned, he had a super party with some of his favorite friends (plus got some awesome gifts)! He is still talking about his pirate party, so I think it was a success!

Now that Gray is three, I think he is more fun than ever. He says so many funny things now and is so much more creative than I ever expected a three year old to be. He loves trains, cars/trucks, dinosaurs, rockets, Cars, Wall-E, and Toy Story. He is potty trained and will tell you that he is Mommy's "big boy" not Mommy's "baby." He continues to amaze me every day with the things he learns and says. Josh and I never realized how lucky we would be to have him in our lives until he actually arrived. We are so thankful for every wonderful minute we have with our little Monkey. Sometimes it's sad that he is growing up so quickly but then again he just keeps getting better with time. I'm sure that all parents are crazy about their kids, but this one is pretty amazing.

Happy 3rd Birthday Gray! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta

I found a pretty good pasta recipe on Pintrest last week from chaosinthekitchen.com. I thought I would share it with you. It goes together pretty quickly, which is great for a weeknight meal. Josh and I both liked this recipe and I will prob make it again when I'm looking for a good comfort food meal. I try to make healthy meals most of the time, and I'm pretty sure that this wouldn't fall into that category.

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta
Ingredients:
4-8 oz linguine or fettuccine
      (I used closer to half of a box than 4oz because, which made the sauce thinner.)
10 tablespoons butter
     (This almost scared me away, but I decided to try it anyway.)
8 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2/3 cup boiling water (from noodle pot)
1 pound cooked shrimp

Directions:
1. Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook the pasta. While pasta is cooking, cook shrimp and reserve. If your shrimp are pre-cooked frozen, thaw under running water.

2. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and sauté mushrooms until soft and brown, season with salt and pepper. (I sautéed the mushrooms with olive oil, so I cut out some butter here.) Reserve mushrooms and melt remaining butter in skillet.

3. Add minced garlic, cream cheese, and herbs. Simmer cream cheese mixture until well blended. Get a scoop of boiling pasta water from the noodle pot and mix in, stirring quickly to smooth out the sauce. Keep the sauce hot and add the shrimp and mushrooms. Mix well and simmer (stirring often) until everything is hot and thickened, about 10 minutes. Toss the sauce with the cooked noodles and serve! This would be amazing with some garlic bread and a salad!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jambalaya

My mom gave me a jambalaya recipe several months back after she made it. She thinks it too tomato-y, but Josh and I both like it. It's a lot easier to make that I thought jamalaya would be, so if you are scared to try it, don't be! The hardest part is cutting everything up!

Jambalaya
Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1 large green bell pepper (seeded and julienned)
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound medium peeled shrimp (I used a pound because we like lots of shrimp.)
1/2 pound cubed boiled ham (I personally think you could leave this out.)
1 (16 oz) can while tomatoes (crushed with juices)
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaves
1 cup long grain rice (uncooked)
salt and pepper/cayenne pepper
hot sauce

Directions:
1. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and light golden in color (about 6-8 minutes).

2. Add the shrimp and ham. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Stir in tomatoes and chicken broth. Season to taste with salt, cayenne pepper, and hot sauce. (I also added some Tony's for some extra kick.) Add the bay leaves and the rice.

3. Cook on medium-low heat covered. Cook until rice is tenet and all the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. (I added a little more chicken broth and let it cook longer because the rice wasn't tender enough after 25 minutes and most of the liquid was already gone.) Remove the bay leaves and serve.

I'll never say I'm a food photographer, but here is a shot of the finished product!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Homecoming!


I didn't post much (if anything) about Josh's deployment while he was gone. The main reason for the omission was operational security. It can be dangerous for everyone in the squadron if times and dates are thrown around in public about troop movement, etc. I'm sure it would not have been a big deal to say something about his absence, but I would never want to be the wife who gave away too much information and put anyone at risk. 

That said, Josh is home! Here are a few photos from his homecoming! Best. Day. Ever. 
They took their sweet time opening this door. :)
First family hugs! 
This is was almost surreal, in case you were wondering. 

Gray was so cute. He went to Josh quickly but didn't say a word until we got to the car.
He alternated between looking at Josh and putting his head on Josh's shoulder for 15 minutes. 

It got a little chilly on the flight line. 
One of my favorites from the day. 
I thought Fletch was going to have a heart attack when he saw Josh! He flipped out! 
We had a few days together when he got back then he had a week of work before we were able to take any of his leave. We were both told that the transition back into 'normal' life could be hard, but Josh was able to integrate back into 'our life' without any trouble. Some spouses say it's hard to let the service member back into your daily routine since you have been taking care of everything alone for so long. I found the opposite to be true because it was nice for him to feed Fletch in the morning, take the trash out, or give Gray a bath. Who doesn't like some help with the daily grind? 

He is back at work now and busy with the usual (flight planning, flying nights, getting qualifications, paperwork, pulling duty, etc). It's nice to have him home every night, conversations every day, phone calls, and text messages. Who knew text messages could be so amazing? He will be deploying again. Probably sooner rather than later (we don't know anything at the moment), but for now all that matters is that he is home. All is right in our world. 

**If anyone in SD is looking for a great photographer, I can give you the contact info for Steven L Perry Photography! He took some amazing photos (all but two in this post plus tons more) at the homecoming! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kirk Cameron

If you haven't heard about all of the ruckus that Kirk Cameron has caused in the last few days, I guess it is possible that you have been under a rock. Please watch this video of a recent interview he did with Piers Morgan which turned into a discussion about gay marriage. He has taken a lot of heat front the gay community and other supporters of gay marriage for his comments.

I know that not everyone will agree with my thoughts on this topic.  I'm sorry if anything I say offends anyone, but the whole situation has rubbed me the wrong way and I feel that I can say whatever I want on my own blog. 

In my opinion, Kirk's responses to Piers' questions were answered the way any Christian who follows Biblical belief would respond. Kirk Cameron is a Christian. He was being interview for a Christian film that is coming out (similar to Fireproof or Courageous, I'm guessing). What do people expect him to say? 

I will also add that I do not have a problem with gay people. I have some gay friends. While I may not agree with their lifestyle, I can still love the person. No one is perfect, and as far as God is concerned we are all sinners. Me included.

While I feel that America was based on equality for all, I also believe that marriage is a Christian doctrine. Josh and I will raise our children in a Christian church with those same beliefs. However, I think there should be some form of rights for gay couples (like health benefits, etc through civil unions). 

I think that any one, believer or non-believer, has a right to think or say whatever they want. I don't have to agree with everyone, and they don't have to agree with me. I also believe that bashing Kirk Cameron for his beliefs is wrong. No one seems to have a problem with people trashing Kirk, but everyone had a problem with him simply stating he did not agree with gay marriage (after he was asked). Kirk did say that is was his 'life's mission to love all people' he just doesn't agree with things that God clearly states are sinful.  

It irritates me that if it's popular to stand up for something, then you can jump on that bandwagon and it's not ok for anyone else to have an opinion. It irritates me that a Christian man can't state his beliefs without being attacked by the masses. Supporters of the gay community shouldn't bully people for having different opinions and beliefs. Kirk Cameron shouldn't be accused of hate speech for saying his beliefs don't align with the gay community. That insane. 

I think that it shouldn't be such a big deal when a Christian says they don't agree with the movement. Was it really a shock that Christians see homosexuality as a sin? I believe we should be open-minded enough to have conversations about hot topics without bashing someone else for their beliefs. We aren't all going to agree, but that's ok as long as we don't trash talk everyone who doesn't agree with us or attack them until they are just quite about the topic. 

Here is an excerpt from this article if you don't want to click on the link. 
When Piers Morgan Asked the actor what he'd tell his kids regarding gay marriage, Cameron responded, "I'd tell my children what I believe myself... I believe that marriage was defined by God a long time ago. Marriage is almost as old as dirt and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for life till death do you part. I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage, and I don't think anyone else should, either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't." Morgan then inquired whether Cameron thinks homosexuality is a sin,and the actor replied, "I think that it's unnatural, that it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."  


Cameron says in response to the outcry, "The only way to properly answer these kinds of questions is to begin the discussion with another question: Is life and sexuality sacred or are they not? If they are, then God has something to say about these things. If not, then everyone is entitles to their own opinion on the matter. I believe that freedom of speech and freedom of religion go hand-in-hand in America. I should be able to express moral views on social issues - especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years - without being slandered, accused of hate speech and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square. In any society that is governed but the rule of la, some form of morality is always imposed. It's inescapable. But it's also a complicated subject, and that is why I believe we need to learn how to debate these things with greater love and respect." 


I am glad that Kirk Cameron stood up for what he believes in. I'm glad that he was unashamed about this his beliefs. I wish more Christians had the gall to be more vocal about God. I think people who support gay rights shouldn't bully people on the other side and expect them to be quite. I would love to hear your thoughts about Kirk Cameron's interview and the response it received. Even if you don't agree with me. :)

Sedona, Arizona

I've heard how pretty Sedona is a million times, so we decided to spend a few nights there during Josh's leave to have some family time to reconnect and relax. It really is a gorgeous little town, with tons of shopping. It snowed the first day we were there (totally unexpected as apparently the Weather Channel isn't really good at predicting that kind of thing), but it only snowed a few inches and the ground was too warm for it to stick. Gray isn't a fan of coats, so that is always fun in cold weather. After a few minutes of him saying "I don't want it." or "Take it off!" or "Help me Momma!" He finally gets over it. Luckily the weather warmed up a bit every day we were there. 

We spend some time walking around the shops downtown. We took a trolley tour and saw some ruins that are a few miles out of town (down the worst dirt/rock road I've ever driven down). We kept it very low key during the trip and I think it was pretty relaxing. Everything is way overpriced because it's a tourist trap but the city is really beautiful. 

Family photo op on one of the trolley stops. 
A little exploring with Daddy. 
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Gray enjoying the view from the Chapel of the Holy Cross. 

Palatki Ruins outside of Sedona 
He appears to be very interested. 
View of Sedona from the Airport. 
We did not visit any vortexes while we were there, but we did get close to several of them. (BTW A vortex is basically an energy center. Some people report having intense experiences/enlightenment because of these vortexes.) We decided that walking down trails with cactus and climbing up rocks with Gray would probably not be the safest of all activities for a family with a small child. Apparently something like 60% of people who visit Sedona go just for these vortexes. I knew they existed because if you spend any time researching the area you will read about them, but I realized how important some people think they are when we saw so many crystal shops everywhere. We decided we needed to be more New Age to really fit in in Sedona. :) Overall it is a nice place to visit for a couple of days and we were glad that we went to check it out. I think we were all happy to be back home together. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Worst blogger ever?

I said in January that I was back in the blogging world. Apparently that was a big. fat. lie. I didn't mean to lie to my audience (meaning both of the people who regularly check my blog), I just didn't realize how busy my life was about to be. I must have somehow forgotten that when it rains, it pours. It seems that when your husband comes back from a deployment, there are about a million things to do. Add on top of that an insane landlord and a few other people who shall remain anonymous, things get really stressful pretty quickly. 

Josh got back from Afghanistan in February. Things picked up again as we had a few small trips planned during his leave. He had to work the first week he was back in the states, but was able to take some leave after they wrapped up some things with the squadron. We went up to LA for a few days to show Josh around a few of the most popular tourist attractions then we took Gray to Disneyland! I was a little concerned that Gray wouldn't really be interested in the characters and may be too short to ride the rides, but I was wrong on both counts. He LOVED Disneyland! 

We had a few things on the list in LA that we didn't get around to while we were there, but I plan to take Josh back to the Getty and the Griffith Observatory as soon as I can talk him into braving the traffic again. I'm also dying to visit the Santa Monica pier!

We stopped at the Walk of Fame and saw lots of 'stars.' We walked down to the Chinese Theater amid tons of Oscars construction (that's why there is a big nasty fence behind Josh and Gray in the first pic). We also spent some time driving around town to see the sights like Rodeo Drive,  Beverly Hills, Bel Air, etc.  

Tom Selleck's star on the Walk of Fame. 
Grauman's Chinese Theater
Grauman's Chinese Theater
Shirley Temple's prints. 
Hollywood! 
And on to Disneyland! This was everyone's first trip to Disneyland and I think we all had a good time. Gray is occasionally skipping naps now, so he did not nap either day we went to Disney. I was worried he would turn into a monster (after a long day of waiting in line and riding rides), but I think he did pretty well (considering he was on antibiotics) with two busy days back to back. I think it helped that we slept in and didn't stay after dark to ride more rides. We actually got 3 day tickets, so we will have to go back ASAP and take Gray to the new Cars section of the California Adventure park!
Mickey! 
You can't go to Disneyland and not get some ice cream! 
Gray was blown away by Mader and McQueen! 
Wheee! 
I didn't take many pictures while we were on this vacation, so I don't have many to share this time. I'm working on a post about our trip to Sedona, Arizona then I'll have to go back and catch up on our other travels!