Thursday, 29 September 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

A friend and I were talking about enchiladas this morning at a swim play date.   She shared a delicious sounding recipe for meat-less enchiladas.   I'm so happy to have another enchilada option, as the one below is the only one I've ever really made.

8  6-inch corn tortillas
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground coriander (I usually use cumin, though)
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1  8-ounce container dairy sour cream
2 cups chicken broth
1   4-ounce can diced green chili peppers, drained
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (4 oz)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Optional: sliced pitted ripe olives, chopped tomatoes, sliced green onions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.   Wrap tortillas in foil.   Heat in oven for 10 to 15 min. or until softened.

For sauce, in a saucepan, cook onion, garlic, coriander, and pepper in butter until onion is tender.  Stir in flour into sour cream; add this mixture to onion mixture.   Stir in broth and chili peppers all at once.

Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.   Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.

For filling, stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into chicken.   Place about 1/4 cup filling atop each tortilla; roll up.   Arrange rolls, seam down, in a lightly greased baking dish.   Top with remaining sauce.   Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven about 35 min or until heated through.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese.   Bake uncovered about 5 min. more or until cheese melts.   If desired, sprinkle with optional toppings.   Let stand 10 minutes. 

from: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (an "earlier" edition when most recipes were still made from scratch, with fewer added chemicals and preservatives in the dishes)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes

This is one of those simple recipes that allows you to feed your family pancakes without preservatives and additives.

Easy Buttermilk Pancakes

2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk (in a pinch, substitute 2 Tbsp. vinegar plus milk to make 2 cups)
1/4 cup oil
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat griddle or large skillet to medium high heat (375).  Grease lightly with oil.   Griddle is ready when small drops of water sizzle and disappear almost immediately.   Pancakes will stick if griddle is too cold.

In large bowl, beat eggs.   Add buttermilk and oil; mix well.   Add all remaining ingredients; stir just unitl large lumps disappear.   For thicker pancakes, add additional flour; for thinner pancakes, add additional buttermilk.

For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle.   Drop blueberries onto each pancake.   Cook 1 to 2 min. or until bubbles begin to break on surface.   turn; cook 1 to 2 min. or until golden brown.

Yield: 16 pancakes

These freeze and re-heat well in the microwave.   Place wax paper between each pancake; put the stack in a freezer bag.   To reheat: wrap a paper towl around the pancakes.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Little Lou

I usually catch a glimpse of Mama's face in my baby girl's face.   As a friend, the daughter of Mama's best friend, told me, "It's a special blessing."

My baby girl

Thanks be to God for little blessings everywhere.

Whole 'Lotta Bakin' Goin' On

 I've been busy baking pies this week, so the kids wanted to bake, too.   They chose chocolate chip cookies.   A little like Larry, Curly, and Moe at times, but FUN!   The cookies were delicious.  
We pack brown sugar.

"I want to break the egg!   I want to break the egg!"
Everyone has a turn at stirring.

To make it easy for them to space cookies on the pan, I just put a dab of dough on each place where a cookie needs to be placed.  
Our handy dandy Pampered Chef cookie scoop makes the job much easier!

Rewarded for his efforts.   I bought a pack of 500 hot dog paper trays from Sam's.   They're great for snacks and treats--much cheaper than paper plates!

They came out so well!   Won't be long before they'll make these independently like Emmeline bakes muffins!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Week, An Anniversary, A Legacy

Last year, I sat down and wrote about the details of Mama's death for the first time in this post: An Anniversary.   Today begins what amounts to a week-long anniversary for me now every year.   It has been seven years now since I lost her.   She may be gone, but she passed down so much to me.   Here's just a few I've been thinking of lately.

Her perspective was formed by her suffering.   People outside of our family who knew Mama are shocked to find out how much suffering Mama experienced in her lifetime.   I think that was a reflection of her generation along with her as an individual.   Many times, she pointed out people to me whose troubles were far worse than mine. 

Mama knew both the heartbreak of not always being able to help her medically fragile son and the pain of losing him.   It seemed to put all other suffering in perspective for her because she had endured that ultimate pain.   I think she probably found strength in the fact that she survived it, even if it changed her forever.    

Friendship is an important gift to be treasured and nurtured because we are fed and nurtured by friendship.   Mama was such a loyal friend and she loved making new friends.   She would have been a different person without the wonderful women in her life.

Mama and Mrs. Carmel on one of their almost daily twice-a-day walks
 All life is precious.   Mama was not especially happy when I became Catholic, but what warming to the Catholic Church she did was due to the Church's adamant defense of all human life, especially the life of the elderly and disabled.   As the mother of a disabled child, she was horrified by suggestions that such a life was less worthy than others or that my brother was ever a burden for her.

Gregory Lewis
 Love your children unconditionally.   I have written before that my mother loved me just because I existed and told me many times how wanted I was.   It's a tremendous gift to give your children.

Hang pictures at eye level.   On a lighter note, it was a pet peeve of my mother's to see pictures hung inches from a ceiling.   I try to "think like Louise" whenever I'm hanging things on my wall.   With the move, I've done that a great deal recently.   I'd like to think I inherited a little of her "knack" for decorating.

Childproof your home for safety only; don't sacrifice beauty and hospitality.   Our house looked like it came out of the pages of Country Living or Southern Living and most of the items came from garage sales, thrift shops, flea markets, etc...   Mama stripped and repainted items others passed over.   She created vignettes of her collections, many of which were very breakable.   She refused to stop doing this for her own children or visiting children.   She kept dangerous things out of reach, but we were taught to respect the decorative items in our home and to keep our hands off them.

She always said parents should go buy something inexpensive, but pretty and breakable, put it in the middle of a table or shelf and say, "This is our pretty _________.   We do not touch it; it is here to make our home look pretty and it is not a toy for you."   She wondered how children would learn to behave toward things in other people's homes if they didn't learn in their own home.  

Let go of perfection.   Our home was always clean and pretty neat, but I remember the mad dash before company: straightening the magazines on the coffee table, cleaning dirty dishes and stashing the mail pile among other things.   When I was older, my mom told someone how she used to work so hard to keep things perfectly neat until she was diagnosed with melanoma when I was only a few months old.   She didn't know if she would live to see me grow up and suddenly, a floor that rivaled a Spic and Span commercial didn't seem so important to her anymore.

Do not argue or try to reason with unreasonable or irrational people.   It will not accomplish anything and you will only be drawn into their turmoil.   Silence is a hard lesson, but it really is the best response in such situations.   Excellent and oft-turned-to advice when I entered the workplace!

Help others while maintaining their dignity.   Mama helped so many people, usually in quiet ways of which only I knew.   I learned of even more stories from those she helped after her death.  In my classrooms, I sometimes had students without supplies, especially by mid-year.   Due to Mama's example, I had a classroom supply store where students could spend their classroom reward dollars.   Five pieces of paper were one reward dollar, a pencil was two, etc... The children were so proud of buying their supplies with money they earned.   I also collected items all year so they could buy presents for their parents in our classroom store.   Mama loved hearing about that store.   Of course, she always felt like my students were adopted grandchildren.   I won a local Teacher of the Year contest sponsored by Wal-Mart and I had to write an essay.   Mama was so proud to read that it was her influence that caused me to create my classroom supply store.

Never forget from where you came.   Even after my dad became a professor, they had bought a nice house on acreage and Greg's medical bills were paid off, Mama never forgot what it was like in the early years, when she had to figure out how to make food stretch until the end of the month.   She still managed money wisely and she was not judgmental about people because of their financial situation.   She had known too many noble country people and struggling graduate students to make rash assessments based on a person's possessions.  

Lying and laziness are not acceptable.   We were always told that we would get in more trouble for lying about not having done something wrong than the actual misbehavior.   Those were the two worst sins in our home and the older I get, the more I understand not only how wrong they are, but also how toxic.    We were always shown role models who were honest and hard-working and I am thankful for the examples.

Share mistakes with children.   My parents told stories of mistakes they made growing up and how they learned from them.   They also shared stories of family and schoolmates.   It always gave me a "there's life after high school" perspective as a teen on those difficult school days.

Set your priorities.   When I was in school, designer jeans were such a huge deal and I did not have them until I was in high school.   By then, the designer names had changed and they were easier to find on sale.   Plus, I didn't outgrow them in a few months.   Mama didn't say, "They're too expensive."   She said, "We don't think designer labels are important and we would rather use our money for other things."    

I still miss her terribly, but I am thankful for all the memories and the legacy of her wisdom and example.   We can't guarantee we'll always be around for our children, so what we leave them by word and example is important.

I love you, Mama.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Where Were You...

...when the world stopped turning, on that September day?

I was, in the words of Alan Jackson's song, "teaching a class full of innocent children."  My fourth graders and I were proceeding with our morning routine when a fellow teacher came to my door and motioned through the glass window for me to come outside.   Julie told me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and there were reports one had crashed in Washington, D.C.   Since we were an elementary campus, our principal did not want any televisions or computers on while children were in rooms, so they would not see the events unfold.   I called Joey and told him to turn on the television.   He was at home grading exams and he had not turned on the tv or radio, yet.   I had to go back in the classroom and spend the rest of the day acting as if nothing unusual was happening.   During our conference periods, we covered our door windows or made sure our screens were out of view of children passing by the rooms, so we could watch the events unfold.   Like most people, I watched news at every opportunity for the next few weeks.  

I've always thought the words Alan Jackson penned following September 11, 2001 captured perfectly the thoughts and feelings of so many of us who witnessed the tragedy through our televisions.   Ours was not the same experience as those who lost loved ones or those who lived in New York City, Washington, D.C., or Pennsylvania.

The next day, my children entered the classroom with an air of solemnity.   They wanted to talk about what they had seen with their parents while watching the evening news.   They were worried about me.   Patriotism was a major part of our class.   They knew I would be upset over the news.

I was to experience it all with my students.   It was my second year with them; I was their third grade teacher the year before, so I knew them well.   We talked about heroes and bravery.   I taught them that heroes can feel fear, but they move past it and they don't let it stop them from doing what is right.   We learned about the CIA, Secret Service, Air Force One and Marine One, in addition to the first responders in New York City and Washington, D. C.   They made banners to send to the Air Force One pilots and CIA since they figured people probably didn't remember them and the sacrifices they made each day on their jobs.   I made a "Let's Roll," banner to hang above out door, after telling them the story of Flight 93 passenger, Todd Beamer, who prayed with the Our Father with the airplane operator before joining the other passengers in rushing the cockpit.  I had that banner in my classroom as long as I taught after that.

I remember one of my students' parents coming to school to speak with me about her son.   She was horrified that, while watching the news on the evening of September 11, when he saw the towers collapse his response was, "Cool."   She realized he had seen so much destruction in movies and video games that he had no concept that this was real and that real people were murdered in the tragedy.   She spoke to him frankly and bluntly.   He began to understand, but she was unsure of what she had done.    She wasn't alone.   None of us knew how to process it all, what to say, what to do.   It was all too horrific to be processed.   Our country, our way of life, our sense of security has been shattered and we turned to God and each other for comfort and guidance.

It is still upsetting to me that no religious leaders were not invited to the World Trade Center memorial ceremony.   In the days following September 11, 2001, people filled churches across the country.   They joined together to pray.   People were helped by religious non-profit groups.   Goodness, one can just take a secular historical view and understand what an integral part of New York City culture and history is religion, particularly Catholicism and Judaism. 

On this tenth anniversary, I remember those who were murdered, those who rushed into the buildings to save others, those who rushed the cockpit of a plane headed to Washington, D.C., those loved ones who were left to mourn, and those who still suffer from their experiences.   I pray that the memorials in Pennsylvania and New York City will bring comfort and peace to the loved ones left behind.

May we never forget September 11, 2001.   God Bless America.

Friday, 2 September 2011

That First Crisp Fall Day

The drought is getting to me.   Deadness, dryness, stressed plants and trees, oppressive heat (and I grew up in south La., so I know oppressiveness in climate), triple digit temperatures as the norm... It just seems so endless right now.   I worry about farmers who just want to make a living and hold on to what is usually family land and a way of life that has been passed down through generations.   My children are outdoor children and they are getting a little cabin-feverish.   Okay, a lot.   Plus, I hate to add up the amount of money we've spent on Happy Hour 1/2 price drinks at Sonic this summer.

So my thoughts are going even more passionately toward that place where they usually tend to wander around August and September: that first crisp fall day.   One of the most glorious days in existence.   On that first crisp fall day, I shall:

Walk with a spring in my step.

Let my children pick anything they want for breakfast.

Open every set of blinds and set of thermal curtains in the house!!!!   I shall fear 3-5 p.m. no longer.

Bake something deliciously fall-ish that will fill the house with aromas of cinnamon.

Take my children to the park where the equipment will no longer carry a burn hazard.

Eat lunch out doors.

Thank God -- for relief, refreshment, and His glorious rhythms and seasons of life.

Okay, so this is not what fall LOOKS like in these parts, but it's what it always FEELS like to me.

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