Well, I’m already starting to think about Christmas…not about gifts, but about how we’re going to help others out this year. Every year we fill stockings for those in need in Loudoun County. In fact, many of my friends got in on the action last year, as well.
Through the year, I always save new pencils, stickers, bubbles, tattoos, boxes of crayons, small toys, etc. that my kids get in party bags and at school. I used to chuck them, but always hated to waste. Now I stockpile them up in a basket in a cupboard, and when Christmas rolls around, I already have a bunch of goodies for the stockings we fill.
If any of my friends and neighbors happen to read this post, please save your little treasures and let me know you are doing so. I can connect you with the organization that is doing the stocking collections, or you can give the items to me, and I’ll be sure they go into stockings for those in need in Loudoun County.
I can’t think of a better way to save money, resources, time, and have your kids involved in something worthwhile…and it’s so easy to do!
I am always looking for new and healthy snacks for my family during this crazy time of year, and when I came across these two items this week, I was thrilled. Both are chocolatey and crunchy, two of my favorite things in a snack. Nature’s Valley is now making Granola Thins, which are a thin square of granola with dark chocolate on one side (they don’t taste like dark chocolate, though) and weigh in at only 80 calories a piece. They also came out with a new crunchy granola bar flavor, Oats and Dark Chocolate. These two ‘snacks’ even stand in for dessert for me. My kids liked them, too!
School is almost upon us, and for many of us, sports practices and tournaments have already begun. I don’t know about you, but that spells M-E-A-L S-T-R-E-S-S to me! I start formulating in my head all of the quick or make-ahead meals I can think of for the onslaught of nights about to hit where we are running this way and that.
My friend (thanks, Ann!) shared a wonderful recipe with me that is going in my “Recipes to Keep” binder, for sure. You can make it ahead and keep it in a crockpot on warm, reheat from the fridge in the microwave or skillet, or eat fresh. It is also very versatile in that you can add just about any veggies you like or have on hand to spruce it up, and can be served with rice or pasta.
It is called Tex-Mex Chicken and Black Bean Stir-Fry:
1-2 Tbsp mild olive or vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (it calls for you to thinly slice them, but I just chunked mine up, and I also only used a 1 lb. package of chicken)
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste
2 tsp regular or mild chili powder or to taste
Pinch of smoked chili poweder, such as chipotle powder or Spanish smoked paprika (I just used regular paprika)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I might add a little more than this to make more sauce)
1/2 cup strained or pureed tomatoes (I used crushed, and I think I would double this to make more sauce)
1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium or no salt black beans
Leaves from 2 or 3 stems of cilantro, chopped (3 Tbsp.) (I left this out)
Add enough oil to coat bottom of large skillet or wok; heat over med-high heat. When oil is simmering, add chicken in batches (I added mine all at once). Stir fry for 3 or 4 minutes until chicken loses its raw look and some of the pieces are lightly browned. (The chicken will not be cooked through.) Transfer to a platter and repeat to use all of the chicken, adding a little oil before each batch as needed.)
Reduce heat to medium; add onion & stirfry for 3 or 4 minutes, until softened. Add salt, cumin, chili powder & smoked chili pwder; stir-frey for 2 minutes, then add broth and tomatoes. Return chicken to skillet, then add black beans; mix well. Increase heat to med-high and bring just to a boil, them reduce heat & partially cover (w lid slightly ajar). Cook for 6-8 minutes until chicken is done, then uncover and add cilantro, if using. Remove from heat.
I served over Trader Joes frozen brown rice (cooked, of course). Delish and made leftovers, which I froze.
Tip: Next time, I would add some sweet red pepper, zuchini, corn, and/or carrots when I added the onions to ramp up the veggie content.
Hi everyone. I am helping a family out that has some extreme personal circumstances going on…mom just got diagnosed with breast cancer, husband is getting deployed to Iraq, and 4 1/2 year old daughter is having trouble with her triple organ transplant. The mom and daughter just moved into Ashburn so she can get treated at Georgetown Hospital, and we are helping get all of her furniture needs and household needs donated/taken care of.
We are still in need of a desk with a pullout keyboard tray, an office chair, and a TV stand.
If you have one of these items to donate, please contact me. (Or, if you could check with your friends, that would be great, too!)
Thanks so much!
Well, it’s that time of year. Vacations for many families are the norm, and tearing your hair out whilst packing and loading are pretty much standard.
As always, I make a list of what we need to bring, a menu plan for the week while we are gone, and a grocery list for when we get there. This year when packing, I decided to expand on my clothes basket technique. For the last few years, we’ve been packing all of our shoes in a clothes basket to take to the beach, and it worked fabulously. So, I figured maybe I would try it for other things, too. I loaded one with beach towels and a bag of pool toys/sunscreen, one with food. They are very easy to stack in the car and super easy to unload upon arrival.
I also clear out my fridge, pack up all of my partially eaten cereal, chips, cookies, and crackers and we polish them off at the beach. (My family didn’t even complain when we ate pasta, Craisins, sunflower seeds, bacon, and yogurt for a few days for dinner prior to us leaving. ) Then, when I get home, I do a large grocery trip and my pantry is cleared of all near-empty boxes.
I also wash all the sheets, dirty laundry, and towels before we go, as well as vacuum and run/unload the dishwasher. How awesome it is to come home to a nice clean house!
Don’t forget to turn down your AC, have someone get your mail, water your plants, and keep an eye on your house. Have fun!
“Enjoy an organized life!”