Mediterranean Chicken

With school in session I'm betting that there are a lot of parents who are looking for quick and easy dinner recipes.  Below is a recipe I shared over at The Frugal Girls last spring.  It's one of my go-to dinners and I thought I would share it here in case you missed it back then.

I consider it a "go-to" because I frequently need quick and easy weeknight recipes.  In fact (and I'm a little embarrassed to admit this) sometimes I don't even know what we're having for dinner until about five minutes before I start cooking.

This is a shameful thing for a mommy-blogger to admit.  C'mon, you guys are on Pinterest, you know how organized we mommy-bloggers are supposed be.  I should have a cute, dry erase calendar made from paint chips and modge podge that proudly displays my dinner plans for the next month.  And it should be cross-referenced with the contents of my uber-organized pantry.

But to be honest, that's not exactly how things go down at my house--though I do have a pretty well-organized pantry.

And in that pantry I always try to keep the dry ingredients for today's recipe, a little something I call Mediterranean Chicken.  (I know, it needs a better name.  I'm taking suggestions.)

Here's how I make it:

First I gather the aforementioned pantry ingredients, seen here:

Then I reach for one of these, a Rotisserie Chicken.

I try and pick up at least one Rotisserie chicken a week.  I use them in all sorts of recipes. They tend to be less expensive than uncooked chicken breasts (and they certainly meet that quick and easy criteria).

I simply remove the skin and carve out the breast.

Then I shred it up with my fingers and set it aside in a bowl.  And lest you think that I waste the rest, be assured, it all gets used.  I save the wings and legs for my daughters to eat and frequently make soup stock from whatever remains.  

Next I slice up some Kalamata olives.  (The amount depends on how much you like them.)  Now I know the jar says "pitted," and I hate to be a negative Nellie, but do not trust them!  The jar of pitted Kalamatas frequently contains at least one pit--and I have the crown to prove it!  So take the extra two seconds to slice your olives and double check for pits.  Your teeth will thank me.

Next I drain a can of artichoke hearts.  I buy the ones that are sliced into quarters.  

Then I add the Kalamatas and set them aside.

While those are draining I pour a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes into a saucepan.  I don't drain them, though I suppose that you could. 

Next add the artichoke hearts and olives to the tomatoes.

If you've ever visited my other recipes, you know that I come from a long line of non-measurers.  Today I have decided to be polite and at least attempt to measure my spices.  First I add roughly a tablespoon of dried oregano...

...then about a teaspoon of garlic powder.
I also put in a little freshly ground pepper but that picture seemed to have disappeared.  
(I don't add salt because the other ingredients are pretty salty on their own.)   

Next I add some capers 
(a task I could not do without the little jar opener doo-hickey pictured below).
Want your own doo-hickey?  See the "Products" tab above.

I'd say that was one heaping teaspoonful.

Then I stir the ingredients over medium heat until they're heated through.  
Yeah.  I probably should have used a larger pot...

While those are warming I make a cup of rice.

At this point I gather the rest of my ingredients: the chicken (which I reheat) and some feta cheese.

 I put the rice in the bottom of a large bowl...

...cover it with the reheated chicken...

...add the tomato mixture...

...and sprinkle with Feta cheese to taste.  (I'm from Wisconsin; I like a lot of cheese.)

And that's it!  Dinner is served.

 It's quick, it's easy and most of all, it's tasty.  

So perhaps you might consider adding it to your paint chip calendar?  I'd be so pleased if you did.


Lunch Box Smoothies

My older daughter just started sixth grade.  That means, not including this year, she has been in school for six years.  At roughly 180 days per school year, that comes out to 1080 days that she has spent in school so far.  And the number of times she has bought her lunch in those 1080 days?


That's right, I made the other 1079 lunches.  Her sister, who's in second grade, has also bought only one time, bringing her homemade lunch total to 359.

Needless to say, I'm always looking for ideas to spice up their lunches.

So I was intrigued when I happened upon this post from Jessica at Stay at Home-ista:  One Week in Kindergarten Lunches.

I love her lunch ideas and recommend that you go over and check them out.  I was particularly intrigued, however, by her choice of packaging.  She packs many of her daughter's snacks in Ball Freezer Jars, the type of jar one uses when making freezer jam.  

I sent her an email asking about it and this was her reply: "I love the ball jars since they are dishwasher, microwave, freezer safe and they keep things from getting squished."

Well it just so happened that I had some freezer jars tucked away from a little freezer jam experiment of yore.    (Did you know that I have a peach tree?  And that the peaches all tend to ripen within a four week period?  And if you don't pick those peaches they go splat all over your patio?  Well they do.  And thus, my moderately successful attempt at making freezer jam.  But that's a post for another time.)

And those little jars got me thinking.  They're so... cup-like.  And that made me think of drinks.  But these are cups that you can freeze, so that got me thinking about frozen drinks, like smoothies!  (Because my daughters' school really frowns upon Pina Coladas...)

And that's when it hit me:  I could make smoothies, freeze them in the Ball jars, put them in my daughters' lunches in the a.m. and they would likely be defrosted by lunch.

Yesterday was my maiden run.  

My smoothies include Greek yogurt, OJ, frozen berries and bananas.  I would give you measurements if I had them.  I tend to eyeball it.  One Magic Bullet's worth of smoothie fills two 8 oz. Ball jars.  I made two batches and sent each girl to school with a smoothie. 

The verdict when they got home?  An enthusiastic thumbs up.  Both smoothies were perfectly defrosted by noon and my girls were the belles of the lunchroom.  

So--what are your favorite lunch box ideas?  I'd love to hear them.

('Cause by my calculations, I still have over 3000 lunches left to go...)

(I had to include pictures of both lunch boxes.  Fairness is everything...)


Pumpkins that are Blingy (Not Stringy)

Sometimes it's the simplest ideas that are the most mind-blowing.  

Like the fact that you can decorate a pumpkin without actually having to carve it.  

This was quite the revelation for me.  H-U-G-E.  

You see, I have a serious aversion to pumpkin guts.  Just the thought of those stringy innards sets off my gag reflex.  


So last year, when I started seeing uncarved pumpkins on Pinterest--pumpkins that had been painted, bejeweled, Sharpied and more--I filed those ideas away for this fall.

Then, last week, as I walked into my local grocery store, I saw these little cuties just waiting to be bought.  I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do with them so I threw them in an old vase until I was ready to make my move.

And frankly, they looked quite pretty just the way they were, but I wanted to do more.

A day later I found myself at Michael's where the "Recollections" line of embellishments were 50% off so I picked up  few packs of "Bling on a Roll." 

Which I really want to rename "Bling on a String."  

Because it rhymes.  

And because I've got a string theme going on here.

Working with this stuff was so much easier than working with individual sticker-gems...

...at least it was easier for my purposes:

I just wrapped them around my pumpkins for a little fall pizazz...

...no pumpkin guts required!



Marrying my Obsessions

So by now we all know that I have a thing for succulents.

(Wait, you didn't know?  See here and here for confirmation of said obsession.)

Another little obsession of mine is milk glass.  (Discussed here and here.)  In fact, I have an entire shelf in my garage dedicated to thrifted milk glass:

So when I found this a couple of months ago on Pinterest, I was pretty stoked.  (Original source here.)

For those of you who didn't click on those links--and you should really click on the links, people--I'm talking about succulents planted in milk glass!  How great is that?

So yesterday while the kiddos were in school I took a little trip to Home Depot and picked up these:

At $1.99 apiece for the little ones and $2.49 for the bigger one they were a bargain.   The milk glass was also inexpensive, I think these three cost about $6.00 total at Goodwill.

Toss in a little cactus soil, insert the plants and, voila!  Instant centerpieces...

...perfect for a wedding, or in this case, a marriage of two obsessions!



Pizza Muffins

 One of the unexpected joys of blogging has been my daughters' reaction to the blog.  Not only do they love to read it, but they are constantly making suggestions for new posts.  "You should totally blog that, mom," has become a common refrain around here.

Last week the younger of the two announced that she had an idea for a recipe: pizza muffins, pizza baked in a muffin tin.  I told her we'd give it a try.  "But will you blog it?" she asked.

Little girl, this one's for you!

Like many of the things I make around here, there was a lot of winging it with this recipe.  (I often picture more experienced cooks reading this blog and shaking their heads in disbelief.)

I started with the prepared pizza dough from Fresh and Easy.  Trader Joe's also has wonderful pre-made dough and theirs comes in whole wheat too.  (Apologies to my mother who made us pizza from scratch, including homemade dough, every single Saturday night of my childhood.)

So after spraying my muffin tins with cooking spray, my daughter and I made twelve balls of dough.  We rolled each one flat and put them in the tins.  They kind of shrunk up and pulled away from the sides but that didn't matter in the end.

Wow these muffin tins look grungy.   I swear I wash them.  Let's just call them "well-loved."   

You can top/fill your muffins with whatever ingredients you'd like.  The first time I made them I actually used ground up meatloaf as a filling and it was wonderful.  (And yes, that's the same meatloaf recipe found here.)  This time we used pepperoni, olives, sauce and mozzarella.

We had different combos in each cup.  We put in the meat first (for those that had meat), then the olives...

...and then the sauce.

Finally we topped the whole thing with cheese and popped them in the oven.

Not only did my daughter come up with the idea, she also helped clean up while the muffins were in the oven.  Love that kid.

They emerged looking beautiful (despite the grungy muffin tins ;)

And they were as tasty as they were pretty.  If I make them again I might use a little less dough and a little more filling.  Beyond that, I'd say they were perfect.

Many thanks to my little chef for the inspiration!

Update:  For those who asked.  I simply used the baking directions (time and temp) that came with the dough.  I did not pre-bake the dough and it seemed to work out just fine.
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