Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Healthy" Fried Chicken Strips

"Mom, this is my most favorite chicken ever." -Isaiah

I know, sweet boy. It is delicious. We love chicken at our house and this my version of "healthy" fried chicken. I use quotations because, hello, fried.

Start with the dry rub:

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 T Smoked Paprika
1/2 T Garlic Salt
1/2 T Mustard Seed Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 t Cumin
2 T Brown Sugar
1 T seasoning salt

Mix ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Gently toss chicken tenderloins or breasts (cut into strips) in the rub. This recipe should be enough for at least 6-7 tenderloins or 3-4 chicken breasts. I like to cut chicken breasts into strips because it cooks faster and it's easier to for kids to dip and eat.

Heat a large saucepan to medium heat and melt about 1/4 c of coconut oil. Place coated chicken in the pan and flip about every 3-5 or until chicken is cooked through and the outside is brown and crunchy. Don't over crowd the chicken (meat browns best when there is space in the pan). Add more oil as needed and repeat until all chicken is cooked. Place on a paper towel on a plate to soak up excess oil.

Serve with all the dippings and enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

DIY Batten & Board for less than $150

Since we moved into our house 4 years ago, I have been dying to do this to our front room. The room has 18 foot ceilings and I wanted to add batten & board to the lower half (about 8 1/2 feet tall) to ground the room, add dimension, and help rid our house of that "cookie cutter"/"builder's grade" look.

We finally did it! (And by we, I mean my husband. He is a rock star.)

Level of difficulty: Easy but very tedious
Time Length: It took us probably 4 whole days (though we spread ours out over 4 weekends so it seemed to take a long time since the room remained in shambles.)
Cost: $150

What you'll need:
2 sheets MDF
2 cans of liquid nails
1 can caulk
1 box All-Purpose Joint Compound
1 gallon Kilz primer
1 gallon white semi-gloss paint

Cost of the above items: $150

Table Saw
Miter Saw
Nail gun
Caulk Gun
Plastic spackle knives
Paint Brush
Paint Roller
Painter's Tape
Stud Finder

Step 1:
Prime walls with one coat of Kilz. This will ensure the joint compound will stick.

Step 2:
Mix the joint compound with water until you get a mayonnaise-like consistency. Using a paint roller, roll onto walls. Use the plastic spackle knives to smooth out texture. Move the knives in a diagonal crisscross motion to ensure you remove any excess. This will remove the texture from the walls to give it a smooth "board" look.

Once the joint compound has dried according to package directions, sand any large chunks off, vacuum any dust and do another coat. This took us 4 coats to get a smooth wall. This, in our opinion, was the hardest and most time consuming part of the project.

Step 3:
Prime the smooth joint compound walls. Let dry.

Step 4:
Measure out boards and cut. Darren cut the two MDF boards into strips using the table saw. You can also buy pre-primed MDF trim boards but it will cost you at least twice as much. We took advantage of our table saw and made our own boards.

Darren cut 3" strips for the vertical boards, 5 1/2" strip for the top horizontal boards, and 4" strips for the middle horizontal boards. (He also cut strips to frame out our windows in a craftsman style. More on that later, but if you are framing out your windows in addition to the batten & board, be sure to do that before doing the walls.)

Step 5:
Put boards up. It's easiest to do the horizontal boards first (they are the most difficult and require two people, in order to hold them up and make sure they are level.) Our top board is 8 1/2 feet from the floor (level with the half wall on the stairs) and the middle horizontal board is 19 1/2" below that. I eyeballed what spacing I liked and this was it.

Be sure to use a level and mark your studs. To apply each board to the wall, squiggle some liquid nails on the back then nail into the marked studs with a nail gun (Darren used finishing nails).

Our vertical boards have 15" of spacing in between them. Again, I just eyeballed the spacing I liked and then Darren measured and made sure all boards were evenly spaced. Use liquid nails, a level, and a nail gun to get these boards up. If you are not nailing into a stud (for many of the vertical boards you won't) use painter's tape to hold up the boards until the liquid nails dries.

Step 6:
Once all boards are up and the liquid nails has dried. Paint the walls and boards with 2 coats of primer. Yes, two. The MDF will soak up a lot of paint and since Kilz is only $15 as opposed to $40 for a gallon a paint, you will want to use more primer and less paint. Kilz is also a great sealer anyway. Trust. Use the Kilz.

Step 7:
Caulk all the edges of the boards. Also, fill in nail holes with sandable white spackle. Let dry. Sand over nail holes to make sure they are smooth.

Step 8:
Paint with a semi-gloss paint. Ours took 2 coats on top of the 2 coats of primer. We used Behr pure white semi-gloss to match our doors and trim in the house.

VOILA! You're done. Eventually we will add a crown molding piece on the top but we haven't gotten there yet. :)

This is one of the coolest projects we have done in our home. It costs very little money when you consider the impact it has on the space and we love it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back to School Prep: Our Family's Favorites

School is starting you guys. There is no stopping it. Along with school starting is the beginning of all.the.things. Bible study, meetings, practices, rehearsals...all of it. And life will get busy before we know it and dinner will get put on the back burner. Before you let that happen. I thought I'd share my family's 10 favorite freezer meals for you to make and have ready to go when life gets crazy.

These meals are not only our favorites, but for the most part, our kids will eat these with no fuss. Ever. The prep time for these should be less than an hour and the total cost for all necessary ingredients is probably less than $100 (realistically it's probably less than $70). Not bad for getting a head start on the back to school bizz-ness.

Pulled Pork
White Chicken Enchiladas
Spaghetti Sauce
Peach Mango Salsa Chicken
Dirty Rice
Italian Sausage and Peppers on Hoagies
Greek Meatballs on Pitas
Sausage Bake
Butternut Squash Chili
Chicken Pot Pie

Pulled Pork

1 pork loin (2 lbs.)
1/2 diced sweet onion
1 Memphis BBQ seasoning packet
1/4 c brown sugar

 Add 1 cup of water before cooking, 8 hours on low

White Chicken Enchiladas

 1 can diced green chilis
1 can cream of chicken
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 bag of chicken breasts
Salt and pepper

8 hours on low. Shred chicken, roll in tortillas you froze with this, top with extra sauce and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. Note: if you like your enchiladas spicier, add a can of sliced jalapenos.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 lb. ground Italian sausage, cooked
1 lb. ground beef, cooked
Garlic powder
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

8 hours on low. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

Mango Salsa Chicken

1/2 tub mango salsa
1/2 tub medium salsa
1 package cream cheese
2-3 chicken breasts

8 on low, freeze with tortillas. Roll into enchiladas or serve as tacos or over chips with all the fixings.

Dirty Rice

1 green pepper diced
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 Tbsp. Montreal Steak seasoning
Drizzle with EVOO

Thaw and warm in a frying pan.

Italian Sausage and Peppers Subs

1 lb. cooked ground sausage
1.5 green pepper chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1/2 bottle red wine
Drizzle with EVOO
Seasoning with Basil and Garlic

8 hours on low Serve in hoagies and top with parmesan.

Greek Meatballs w/Pitas

3 lbs. ground beef
1 bunch mint, chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
1/2 c bread crumbs

Hand mix, roll into meatballs, divide into two bags. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. Serve with Pitas and tzaziki sauce (which is just plain Greek yogurt with dill, lemon zest, and cucumber).

Sausage Bake

Freeze 1 bag of frozen broccoli with 1 package of smoked sausage. Take out of the freezer the day you are ready to eat it. Combine with cubed potatoes and other veggies if desired, drizzle with EVOO, garlic powder, oregano, sage, salt and pepper. Toss and bake. (Note: I have tried freezing the potatoes with doesn't taste as good so I only buy the freezable ingredients and add the fresh ones later.)

Bake at 425 for 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Butternut Squash Chili

1 cubed butternut squash
1 lb. ground beef, cooked
1 packet chili seasoning
A few handfuls of chopped kale
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar

8 hours on low. Serve over cornbread waffles (prepare Jiffy cornbread mix and cook in greased waffle maker. The bomb.)

Chicken Pot Pie

1 can cream of chicken
1/2 carton of chicken broth
1/2 bag chicken breasts
1/2 chopped celery stalk
1/2 of the chopped carrots
1/2 of the cubed potatoes
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Cook 8 hours on low. Add 1/2 the bag of frozen broccoli during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Shred chicken. Add filling to the pie crusts that you will freeze with this. Bake according to package instructions.

Grocery List:
Meat |
1 pork loin (2 lbs.)
2 bags of chicken breasts
2 lbs. ground Italian sausage, cooked
6 lbs. ground beef, cooked
1 package of smoked sausage
1 lb. ground beef, cooked

Produce |
1 sweet onion
3 green bell peppers
1 red pepper
1 bunch mint
1 lemon
1 celery stalk
1 small bag of the carrots
2-3 red potatoes of the cubed potatoes
1 bunch kale
1 cubed butternut squash

Seasoning |
1 packet chili seasoning
1 Memphis BBQ seasoning packet
Brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
1 bay leaf
Brown sugar
Montreal Steak seasoning
1 egg
Bread crumbs

Canned |
 1 can diced green chilis
2 cans cream of chicken
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 carton of chicken broth

Refrigerator/Freezer |
8 oz. sour cream
1 tub mango salsa
1 tub medium salsa
1 package cream cheese
2 bags of frozen broccoli florets
1 package ready-made pie crusts

Dried Goods |
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
1 box spaghetti noodles
1 package pitas
1 box jiffy cornbread
2 packages of tortillas
1 bag of pretzel rolls

1/2 bottle red wine