Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Little Sister!

Yesterday was my dear sister's birthday, and while I wanted to post this last night and couldn't because our internet stopped working just as I was beginning to work on it I figured better late than never.

To say that I am lucky to have Christine as a sister would be an understatement.  She is funny, smart, beautiful, and a good friend.  

She can also be a bit silly, infusing our lives with laughter since childhood.

She's traveled, and she's amazing at arranging trips to get the most out of the experience.

She's been there for me on the biggest days of my life.

And though she seemed a little uncomfortable holding Baylor at first, ...

... she soon turned into a most amazing aunt to my two little ones.

Oh, and did I mention the girl can bake?

So here's to my sister!

We hope you had the happiest of birthdays!

Be sure to enjoy those glow-in-the-dark Lego earrings the kids picked out for you!

Christine (a.k.a., Aunt Crrrstine), we appreciate you, we love you, and we are so lucky to have you in our lives!

Happy, happy birthday, little sister!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowy Zoo Trip 2014

Mollie and I needed to go to our local zoo to sign her and Baylor up for some summer classes, but once we were finished with our official business we decided to take advantage of our errand and pay the actual zoo a visit.

One of the bald eagles was actually out of its nest, something I had never seen before in all my years of going to the zoo.  

There weren't any ducks in the duck pond area, which had been completely drained of water, but there were ducks swimming in the salmon pond.  Mollie was, of course, delighted.

The otters were out and enjoying the snow left on the ground, rolling around in it with vigor.

Then they saw some visitors up above and decided to check them out.

Both of the bears were sleeping during our visit, which seemed appropriate given the chilly weather.

The mountain lion, on the other hand, was up and about, prowling around his pen.

And ironically enough, the snow leopard, who I was sure would be awake and enjoying the cold, was sound asleep up on the rocks.

The chimpanzees were all inside; some were resting, some were eating, and some were just ... grooming.  The far one in this picture was picking stuff out of his ears and eating it, which Mollie found infinitely funny.

The tropics house was a busy place, and it was nice to see all the spider monkeys up close.

The komodo dragon was just chilling out, and Mollie found it fascinating that he had two balls in his enclosure to play with.

Quite a few of the exhibits were closed for the season, so our trip was much shorter than usual.  But it was nice to see some of the animals without all the crowds and without the sweltering heat of the summer.  Plus, as we were leaving, Mollie got the gnu drum all to herself!

And, unlike during summer visits, it wasn't too hot to touch!  Bonus!

We had a great little trip to the zoo, and it has definitely made me want to go back before the weather really heats up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie from Scratch

This recipe comes from Prevention magazine by way of my mom, and it is one of my new favorites.  The kids balked at it at first and now won't eat chicken pot pie, so we call this one "chicken casserole" at home.  Either way, it's delicious!

Chicken Pot Pie
serves 6 (according to the recipe ...)

4 oz. butter
1 onion, finely chopped (we use a white one)
1 1/2 cups flour, divided
2 cups chicken broth (I used unsalted chicken stock, and it worked out just fine.)
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
salt and pepper (We didn't add any salt but made sure to use a hearty sprinkling of pepper.)
3 cups chopped roasted chicken (Rotisserie chicken is perfect for this!)
2 cups thawed frozen veggies (I cut up almost a cup of raw carrots and put them in water with a heaping cup of frozen corn and peas and boiled them all until nearly cooked.)
thyme, sprinkle (I would use a pretty heavy "sprinkle".)
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs (if you want to do an egg wash)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a medium pan, melt 4 Tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook until clear, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in 1/2 cup flour; cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Whisk in broth until smooth, then add 2 cups milk. Bring to a rapid simmer, whisking, then cook for 5 minutes; season.  (I have found that, after 5 minutes, the roux is never very thick at this point, so I often add some more flour and cook it down a bit until it's more creamy and less runny.  But that's just how I roll.)  Stir in chicken, veggies, and thyme.  Divide into six 8-oz. ramekins or spoon into a 2-qt. baking dish.  (We have also used Fiestaware individual casserole dishes for this with great success.  For our little family, we fill two of the aforementioned dishes and then as many ramekins as possible; we cook two of the ramekins and put the rest in the fridge, uncooked, to have as leftovers.  So far this has worked very well.)

In a bowl, whisk remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cut remaining 4 Tbsp. butter into flour mixture until crumbly.  Add remaining 1/2 cup milk; stir to combine.  Spoon batter onto filling; egg wash if desired.  (This amount of topping will really only cover the 2-qt. baking dish or the four dishes we usually use; it gets a bit thin if you do much more than that.)

Bake until tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.  (Though, if you don't do the egg wash - which I don't - they won't ever get really golden ... just a little browning here and there will tell you it's done.)   Let rest 5 minutes before eating.

For the leftovers, I have cooked up a crescent roll and a Parkerhouse roll and have eaten it with that.  Both were delicious.