Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Favorite: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This has been one of those recipes. I made it once, exactly as written, and we all loved it. It's one of those recipes that you just don't need to tweak at all because it's so perfect.

It's creamy and flavorful and so satisfying. We love it with lettuce and tomatoes on top, but if they're out of season, it's still great without them. Serve with rice and corn, or some green veggies, or chips and salsa--it goes great with any of them. It's quick and easy, perfect for using up leftover chicken, or some precooked bags you've got stashed in the freezer

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Salsa
1 diced onion (or about 1/4 C. dried minced onion)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
flour tortillas (about 6)
~2-3 cups cheese (cheddar, colby jack, or mexican blend is the best)

Mix first six ingredients in a bowl. Cut or tear tortillas into pieces and cover bottom of 9x13" pan with a layer. Cover with half the chicken mixture and half the cheese. Repeat layers. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

print grocery list

What's your family's favorite?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Have I Ever Told You?

I really enjoy listening to knitting podcasts. Even when I don't have time to actually knit.

One favorite is Never Not Knitting. I've been listening since she started--you have to hear her theme song, it's too cute!

Anyway, she likes to feature a knitting story on each episode, and implores her listeners to send in theirs. Well, I sent her a story last summer and she decided to feature it on one of her shows! I was so excited! (I can't believe I didn't tell you!)

Anyway, I had it all written up. But then I got the idea that it would be fun to record it myself, along with my daughter, whom the story includes. (I don't know if that's the correct usage of 'whom', but I feel intelligent when I use it, so there it is.)

Well, we recorded several times until we got a good 'take' and got it all ready to send to Alana, wouldn't go. Something in cyberspace was strategically blocking MY recording from getting to where it needed to go. Because my recording was going to change the world, you know.

So my story ended up just being read by the podcaster, which was great, because she does an awesome job and adds cute sound effects and such. It was such a fun experience hearing my little knitting story being read on the intergalactic Web. My daughter and I got such a kick out of it. I even made my darling husband listen to it (I just ignored the eye-rolling).

So, if you happen to be interested in giving this episode a listen, or any of the Never Not Knitting episodes for that matter, click HERE, grab your knitting, and settle in for a pleasant half hour or so.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Freezer Cooking

Wouldn't it be great to have dinner ready for you to just pop in the oven several evenings a week? I really love having that convenient option for when the day just gets away from me.

It's one reward that is well worth the time and effort you put into it.

Crystal over at Money Saving Mom and FishMama are putting together some Freezer cooking days this weekend. You can get all the details for how to get ready and follow along HERE.

I think I'll be pulling some hamburger out of the freezer this evening to thaw. I'll brown some with onions to bag up for easy spaghetti/chili/mexican dishes, then I might make a couple of meatloaves and/or meatballs.

I may even throw a couple of bags of frozen chicken breasts (bought at an AWESOME sale last weekend) into the crockpot to cube or shred for casseroles and such. Some of it will probably end up in our favorite Chicken Enchilada Casserole (recipe HERE). Yum! Looking forward to it already!

So, do you have any plans to join in on this Freezer Cooking weekend? What dishes will you be preparing?

Now is probably not the time... be knitting mittens. By the time I'm done, I'm sure it will be the middle of July and I'll have to stuff them in the closet until winter arrives again.

Worse yet, I'll get sidetracked halfway through, set them aside, and I'll forget about them until next winter. When I'll *still* have cold hands.

Though I have no photos to show you just yet (can't find that blasted camera cable!), you might want to check out these patterns.

I'm following a pattern called Mittens to Order by Diane Mulholland (rav link HERE ).
But I'm inserting the pattern charts from these Swirly Mittens by goldenknits (rav link HERE ).

I LOVE the swirls! They're going to be gorgeous. If I finish them.

I'm using three different leftover sock yarns--with no idea how much I actually have of each one. It's one of those moments when I really miss my little postage scale. I pretty sure that I've deluded myself into believing I have enough yarn, but I'll probably end up with one and a half gorgeous mittens to display on my shelf. Or decorate bottles of soda, maybe?


Anyway, I'm using THIS gorgeous yarn, Fleece Artist Trail Socks in the Aurora colorway, along with two solids. The solids are both Knit Picks Essential--Grass and African Violet. The two solids are actually found in the Fleece Artist skein, but both pretty briefly, so there shouldn't be much problem with the pattern getting lost.

I'm using the purple with the variegated for the cuff, which is based on the original pattern formula, a two-color rib. Then for the main body of the mitten, I'm switching over to Grass with the Fleece Artist. I actually have already gotten to the chart using the purple instead of green (had to rip it out), and something about the brightness of the purple was distracting. I think the green will be a better choice for the swirls, and they should stand out a bit more.

I'm not 100% sold on the pattern for the palm of the mitten. The first time around, I used the one that came with the swirl chart. But it seems to use a lot more of one color than the other. I think that if I keep the yarn usage at more of a 1:1 ratio, I'll have less chance of running out of one or the other of the yarns.

I may end up scouring stashes on Ravelry to find some matching yarn--at least that's an option! Thank goodness for Ravelry. :)

What are you all knitting or crafting these days? Are you finding enough time for your hobbies?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Counter-Culture Nutrition

After a fairly surprising trip to the dentist yesterday, I wanted to share something with you. You see, I haven't been to the dentist since I was a kid--over 15 years ago, I'm embarrassed to say.

Let's just say, I've only got 1 cavity that isn't in a wisdom tooth. (yes, the wisdom teeth need to come out--pretty common, anyway.) Very surprising considering how many months I've been pregnant or breastfeeding in the last 12 years!

As I pondered this, I really felt the need to share something that I feel has contributed to this lack of dental problems--other than the grace of God. :)

Anyone who is interested in nutrition and natural health-related information, should do some reading HERE. I'll admit that I haven't done any serious reading on the subject for a good couple of years, but when I did some research on this site about 5 years ago, we made the decision to try to drink only RAW milk--straight from some farming friends.

That's also when I learned the great value of eggs and started incorporating them into our diet much more than I ever did before.

Now, I can't sit here and say that we're healthy all the time, or have never had cavities, but I can say that we enjoy very good health, and my kids are smart and happy.

And did I mention? Raw milk tastes SO much better! We bought some at the store last week because we were running low and the weather was too bad to make the trip to get more 'good stuff'. I feel bad for people who have never had fresh, raw milk! The pasteurized stuff is so tasteless and blechh.

I'm a big proponent of educating oneself, and feel that applies especially to the foods we consume. It's amazing what an effect nutrition can have on one's health--I see so much evidence of that in the people I know and interact with. Feed your body well and it will reward you!

Go forth and learn: Weston A Price Foundation website

And if this is 'old news' for you, do you have any ideas for incorporating more nutritious choices into our diets?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An important subject

I know birth control can be uncomfortable to talk about.

Whether or not you agree with it's usage, THIS is an important post to read.

There are very real consequences to using chemical hormones. I believe this is because those chemical hormones are made and/or altered by fallible human beings rather than what our perfect Creator planned for us.

(I'm not judging anyone here--we used the pill for a short while before being convicted not to. I just want to pass on some information to try to save some sweet friends a bit of heartache. *smile*)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Oreos Today!

The Mannings beat the Donalds in the Oreo DSRL! That means free Oreos for us! Go HERE and become a fan--then be ready at 3PM EST TODAY to sign up on that page for a package of free oreos. There is a limited supply, so be ready. :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Daily Guideposts

I received a surprise package in the mail the week before Christmas. I had no idea what it was, so I opened it up eagerly.

It was a book--Daily Guideposts 2010, A Spirit-Filled Devotional.

I knew just who it was from.

My dear, sweet Gram had, just a month before, shown me her 2009 copy and wondered if I had one.

I had never seen these particular devotionals before, and told her so. She shared how much she enjoyed hers, how the devotions were short and sweet, but just a little something to jump-start your Bible reading.

I completely forgot about the conversation until opening up this package. What a sweet gift, and so much appreciated. I've been reading my devotions (nearly) every morning this month and have really enjoyed it.

I'm so grateful for my thoughtful Grandma. She laid a foundation of faith for me when I was just a little girl, and even now she's helping me continue walking that path. I love my Gram.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Media Cards (or--how to get the kids to not play video games every waking minute)

When we bought our Wii 2 years ago, we had never owned any kind of gaming system before (well, not since having kids, anyway). We quickly realized that we needed to do something to prevent our kids from having a serious gaming addiction and/or let their grades slip down the drain.

Thus, the Media Card was born.

It's basically a grade-based reward system. I've never liked the idea of paying kids money for good grades, but this was a way to make them feel rewarded while at the same time keeping them accountable for the amount of time they spend on computer/video games/tv/movies. Yep, the 'media' in Media Card applies to all electronic forms of entertainment in our home. They can read books, play board games, puzzles, cards, etc. etc. for 'free', but they have to 'pay' to play Lego Indiana Jones or visit their Webkinz online.

We set the payment levels for the grades we knew our kids were capable of. We use a software-based curriculum for a couple of the kids, which gives a quiz and/or test in every subject at least once a week. Therefore, we thought this would give the kids enough opportunities to earn media cards to keep them supplied to the tune of about 1 card per day, if they did well on those quizzes/tests.

We didn't want them to earn so many cards that they could spend every free minute on electronic time wasters, but enough to keep them motivated to put forth some effort in school. That's why we decided not to 'pay' for their daily work. You can decide what you reward them for and what they need to pay for. Just set up the rules to start with, communicating to your child(ren) that for the first month or so the system may need a bit of 'tweaking'.

We also had two 'tiers' of earning opportunity--1 card earned for an A or B on the quiz/test, 2 cards for a 100% on one. Each media card is good for 30 minutes of 'play' time, and we used a timer to keep them accountable on this. I've gotten away from that recently and have noticed the kids taking advantage and going a bit over their time limit if I'm not paying attention. Going to have to bring back the timer. :)

Oh, and I actually made up the cards on the computer, using a label template of some sort. They're just made out of cardstock, but have lasted 2 years so far with no problems.

I now have a couple of kiddos using non-software-based curriculum, so it's a little more work for me to keep up with this system for them. They don't have tests or quizzes in a couple of the subjects, so I just average their weekly grades in each subject and if it falls within the acceptable range, they get their card.

Several of my friends have commented on how much they liked our system, so just thought I'd put it out here to share.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Feast

Nearly Every Friday night, we have friends over for a big ol' potluck-style Feast.

I won't go into how it began here, but I wanted to share the menu for this week and a recipe or two.

Jan. 22, 2010 (Happy Birthday, Anna! :)

Pickle-Cream Cheese roll-ups
Tortilla Chips and dip

Baked Ham
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Home-canned Pear Halves

Gooey Cake (recipe below)
Chocolate-Chunk Brownies

Even though we always have tons of food, it's funny because the kids hardly eat anything--there are always at least 5 kids besides ours, if not more. Just too many fun people to talk to and play with!

Today we're planning on a really big crowd--I think we'll have about 38 people here, altogether. I'd better check the stock of paper plates! LOL

Oh, and in honor of my dear friend Anna's birthday, I'm sharing her fabulous recipe below.

Gooey Cake
1 Yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, barely melted
1 egg
1 8 oz package cream cheese
2 eggs
3 3/4 C. powdered sugar

Step One: Beat together butter and 1 egg. Add cake mix and stir until well blended. Press into 9x13 pan. Set aside.

Step Two: Beat together cream cheese and 2 eggs until blended. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread cream cheese mixture over crust in pan.

Step Three: Pop that pan into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until starting to brown. Let cool completely before serving.

I'm sure Anna would want me to tell you that you can use a lemon cake mix and add some lemon juice to the filling mixture to make lemon bars--one of her favorites!

I'm thinking about trying a chocolate version, myself. YUM!

Double Swagbucks Today!

Use your swagbucks toolbar (or just use to search for anything and everything today--you're sure to get several extra bucks in your account!

Get your Swagbucks HERE!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Long Day....but a good one.

I've received a lot of help on this road of motherhood.

My mother and in-laws both live nearby, so I've rarely had to hire a sitter over the years. I've always had someone to step up anytime I've needed it.

Now that my kids are starting to get older, and our lifestyle has changed to accommodate the larger family, I don't have to ask for help *quite* as much as I used to.

What's more, I now have a bit more mental energy to help others out when needed.

Today was one of those days. A dear cousin needed a sitter so she could see her doctor, and I was happy to help.

The day went fine--I gave my 1st grader the day off of school so that he could help entertain his nearly-4-year-old cousin. He was thrilled to 'help'--and have some extra time to play trains with his brothers, too.

Meanwhile, the rest of us hit the books as usual. Everything was going ok--just a few interruptions from the newcomer, who wasn't used to the routine around here. :)

Then Dh calls to say he won't be home for lunch.

This is where it starts getting hairy--for some reason, that little mental break in the day makes such a HUGE difference, for the children as well as for me. And when I don't get that break, my nerves get a bit more, um, *sensitive*. LOL

Later, another cousin needed his kids to come over for a bit. So we had 11 kiddos here this afternoon! I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, cooking dinner with the usual hungry-whiney-kid noises in the background when my dh arrived home. He helped me take the focus off of myself and directed my attention to something priceless.

Our girls and one of the visitors were playing dress-up. Nothing really new, this has been a favorite pastime of my girls' since they were itty bitty. But the twins are 10 now! They were in some crazy outfits pretending to be fairies. They came dancing down the stairs and filled us all in on their names and what their 'specialty' was. There was a water fairy, flower fairy, and a couple of others. So sweet!

I know these days will get fewer and farther between as time goes by, so I'm trying to enjoy them while I can. These really are sweet times.

SOOOO Behind!

It seems I just keep falling behind on things lately, and the more behind I am, the more I avoid those things.

The most notable casualty has been my coupon stash.

I've got 2 weeks worth of Sunday inserts cut out and quite a stack of IPs (internet printables) cut out, but none of them are sorted or filed, which renders them pretty much useless as far as helping out the grocery budget. Also, there's quite a backlog of coupons that I haven't even printed because I don't want to have a stack of them on my desk waiting to be cut and sorted. Pathetic, no?

Because of this behind-ness, I haven't been shopping (with coupons) for nearly 2 weeks. I'm going to work on catching up today. I'll be loading up my MP3 player with a few knitting podcasts, and powering through. I may even pay my oldest (in media cards--more on that later) to help me out.

Does anyone out there have a good system for this task? I love using coupons and the 'rush' of saving a ton of money at the register. I don't even mind sitting quietly and cutting them all out. But I dread the sorting and filing. Guess it's just another one of those things that just has to be done, so I might as well learn to like it, huh?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Swagbucks codes this week!

I hope you guys don't get sick of me talking about SwagBucks, but I really do love it and really encourage everyone I know to sign up. This week they're putting out some special codes to get 'free' swagbucks, at least one code per day. The 'catch' is, that you need to have their toolbar installed on your computer in order to get the codes.

Their toolbar simply has a search box, and a few buttons to lead you straight to information on the swagbucks website. There is also a 'message box' from The Swag Guy, where you sometimes get special swag codes to redeem on their homepage for a SB (swag buck) or two.

I installed their toolbar last summer and have never had a bit of a problem with popups, spyware, or anything of the sort, so I don't hesitate to recommend it to people.

My only complaint would be that after one of my FireFox updates, my SB toolbar went away for some reason, but I re-installed it on Internet Explorer just fine, so I think that was one of my computer's 'quirks'.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know how they could get some FREE swagbucks this week in addition to the ones you can earn by searching, referring friends, shopping through their site, etc.

Also, did you know that they have a program where you can send in your old cell phones for swagbucks? What are you going to do with those old, outdated cell phones that you've 'outgrown' and are just collecting dust somewhere? Why not turn them into swagbucks that you can redeem for gift cards or even PayPal CASH! I think it's just a great program, all-around. Check it out!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Learn Spanish--FREE Site!

I have been loving THIS spanish learning site since last summer. We're going on a short trip to Mexico this spring and I've been using this site to brush up on my language skills. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all this site has to offer, but what I've seen has been mind-blowing. There are some ads and 'commercials' at the beginning of the instruction videos, but they're short and not bothersome. I think it is very appropriate for homeschools, and have had my kids do a few of the lessons so far. They loved it!

I've been using the 'learn spanish' section of this site, which contains videos, flashcards, and interactive learning activities to help you learn. They use a point system to help gauge your progress and 'compete' with others if you'd like. You have to earn a certain number of points from one lesson in order to complete it. Of course, you can choose your lessons based on your skill level and area of interest. There are also forums, a spanish/english dictionary and translation feature, and lots more!

Check it out here, at

Chuck is coming back--and here's a contest!

Have you watched Chuck? It's a fun TV show (and I don't watch much tv) with comedy, action/spy stuff, fun family time, and a little romance. I got sucked in after watching the pilot and have been in love with the show since.

Season 3 starts on Sunday at 9 eastern on NBC with a 2 hour premiere, then another episode at it's regular time Monday night. Be sure to tune in--we almost didn't get another season of this series, so watch it and tell all your friends to, as well. Of course, you can watch the full episodes later on or if you can't watch the original airing.

And the contest--go HERE and leave a comment for a fun prize!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kraft Sweepstakes--$44,000

Enter HERE every day for a chance to win a $44,000 home makeover, flat screen TVs, cookware and more. You need a UPC code from a participating product (appears to be nabisco/planters) to enter.