Preparing to be…Prepared?

I’m always looking for new ideas to make life easier. I love to cook, and I’m no stranger to the crock pot. I’ve pinned the pins, I’ve bookmarked the websites, I read the reviews and I’ve tried meals that looked Pinteresting- some passed the Liner test, and some were Pinterest FAILS. The fails have made me a little reluctant to try new recipes. On the other hand, recipes from people I know and trust are different. I’m an extremely picky eater, so it’s really hard to find recipes I like.

I recently came across a blog post from a HS friend, narrating her experiment with Crockpot meals. My best friend, Mel, and I have also been swapping recipes.  Tonight, Shawn and I spent about an hour prepping our meals. He chopped, while I bagged the meat, spices, etc. Even if the recipe called for it, I did not brown the meat. I simply piled all the necessary ingredients into a gallon Ziploc bag and placed them in the fridge. These would freeze well, but I only made enough for the week.

AllRecipes has also become a “go-to” website . I like that I can change the portion size to fit my family, save the recipes to my recipe box, and even add the ingredients to the grocery list to print.

I did alter these recipes to meet the need of my family. Let’s be honest, it was mostly for me. I am an extremely picky eater.

  • Some of these recipes were not crock pot recipes. Do it anyway! 8-10 hours on low (usually 8) has always worked for me. If you’re unsure, use a meat thermometer to verify it’s done.
  • If it called for oregano, sage, rosemary or thyme it didn’t make it in the pot. YUCK!
  • Black beans or pinto beans, yeah, they didn’t make the cut either.
  • I used low-sodium items where I could, especially chicken broth. I’m just looking out for the hubby’s heart.
  • I always keep pasta and a huge box of 5 minute rice in the pantry. I’m a white rice kinda girl. Brown rice is not my thing. Many times these items are BOGO Free at Winn-Dixie.
  • I bought my chicken at Winn-Dixie during their BOGOF sales. Ground beef is cheaper at Costco. I buy it in bulk and divide it up among the recipes, or freeze it by the pound in sandwich bags.
  • Pre-chopped onions and bell peppers are available in large bags at Fresh Pickins, our local fruit stand. I love to keep these on hand in the freezer for tossing into the recipes when I don’t feel like the extensive prep work or when I’m in a hurry.
  • Spices like cumin, paprika and cayenne are also BOGOF at Winn-Dixie. Watch for the sales.
  • The night before, I made sure the crockpot was clean and ready to go. I inserted a crockpot liner (best invention EVER!) and dumped the ingredients in. The next morning, I pulled it out of the fridge, placed it in the warming part of the crockpot and set the timer.
  • After dinner, if there were no left overs I allowed the pot to cool, cleaned the lid and prepped it for the next day. If there were leftovers, I placed the pot in the fridge.

Here are the links to the ones that have been successful for me. A few were my own experiment, and a few came from Kirby and Mel.

1. Angel Chicken- Shawn and I love this one. I had seen it on several of my Facebook friend’s posts and tried it for myself. If you choose not to use the wine, just substitute chicken broth. I actually added a little extra broth the second time because I felt the sauce was a little thick. The only downside to this one was it wasn’t 100% ready when I got home. I still had to boil a pot of pasta.

2. Chicken Tortilla Soup- So good! I made this one tonight. I use one large can of Rotel instead of a can of tomatoes and a can of chiles. Shawn likes to add diced jalapeno on top at the end.

3. Chili- Perfect for a cold dreary day. I previously used the McCormicks package, and this is almost identical, but better! I like knowing what I’m putting in my food, not just dumping an envelope.

4. Mississippi Roast- This one usually becomes a two-night meal. It falls apart and is super tender! I am very picky about my roast and rice & gravy. Shawn immediately asked for this one again. The pepperoncini peppers were a weird addition to me, but they totally work (A jar makes about 3-4 roast recipes).  I add about a cup of water to the bottom, despite the recipe telling you not to. It cuts down the saltiness and makes a gravy in the pot (If you find a low-sodium ranch envelope, let me know). Sometimes I will mix it up and use stew meat instead and add carrots and potatoes. It is served over rice. The second night, I use the rest on poboy bread/hoagie buns and add provolone on top for a roast beef poboy.

5. White Chicken Chili- Yum! I find that canned beans have salt in them so I purchased a bag of dry white beans and used them instead. I soaked them overnight and them placed them in the bag as I prepped.

6. Mexican Cream Cheese Chicken- I purchased taco seasoning from Red Stick Spice, but you also use the envelope from the grocery store. I also left out the olives and substituted the tomatoes and chiles for a can of Rotel here. I served it over rice the first time, but in the future I will serve it with tortillas and sour cream.

7. White Beans- A Southern favorite served over rice and with a pan of Jiffy cornbread. I skipped the onion powder and chopped up a half of an onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic instead. At the end, remove a few ladles of beans, mash with a fork and return to the pot to give them a thicker consistency without using cornstarch.

8. Red Beans & Rice- Another Southern favorite. I skipped the sage and thyme. That was not in traditional RB&R as I knew them, but this was the closest recipe. At the end, remove a few ladles of beans, mash with a fork and return to the pot to give them a thicker consistency without using cornstarch.

I look forward to reading your comments. I’d love to hear about your successes and I always welcome suggestions as well. Bon Appetite!

Liner Cousins

After the reunion, the Liner cousins got together at Linda and Ryan’s. It was a gorgeous day to hang out by the pool. It was also sweet Wesley’s first time in the pool. What a cutie!

Lots of families were represented:

Spillers-Ryan, Linda, Mallory, Noah, Luke

Mitchells-Kristie & Sierra

Liners-Shawn, Marja, Maggie, Mason

Wrights- Russell, Shireen, Rhys, Caleb, Wesley

Wright-Tami

 

kids groups frog diving catch

Babysitter Reunion-Round 2

I babysat A LOT growing up, mostly for the same families though (See my original post). The same families that I began babysitting had older kids and several years later, there were a second round of kids. This time I was able to visit with several of the younger ones. The crazy part is that some of them are just a few years older than my kids. That’s really hard to believe!

I’m always glad when I can steal some time with Kerri by myself. Thanks for bringing them, friend. I love watching my sweet babies grow up!groups chicken

Watch out, Ree Drummond!

I’ve always had this silly dream of living on a ranch like the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. I’d spend my days cooking, working the ranch with my husband, riding our horses as a family, etc. We’d have cows, pigs, and chickens, keeping our freezer full of fresh meat, along with a garden to stock my shelves with fresh produce.

But the reality? We are living the suburban life, teaching at a local private school together and I love every minute of it! All four of us are on the same campus everyday, one of us in each of the 4 buildings.

Every once in a while, I get the urge to learn a portion of the trade I imagine would be a part of the ranch life. Silly, right?

Today, Maggie, Mason, and I spent the day at my Aunt Cindy and Uncle David’s house, where I learned all about canning vegetables. It was so much fun! They have a garden just behind their house where they grow various produce: yellow squash, green beans, bell peppers, potatoes, corn, blueberries, etc. Last summer, they showed us how to harvest and shuck the corn and Maggie and Mason LOVED it! It’s one of the experiences the suburban life doesn’t offer. Sure we’ve been to Mrs. Heather’s Strawberry Patch and places like it on school field trips, but it’s not the same.

When we arrived this morning, Uncle David was cleaning and snapping the green beans. (Later on, Aunt Cindy and I took our turns as well.). You can’t imagine the amount of green beans they had pulled from their garden! This is only a fraction of the first harvest. My cousin and his wife had taken some home the previous day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We prepared our jars, lids, rings, etc. and began to fill them.

 

 

Aunt Cindy was so patient to allow Maggie and Mason to help, too.

mason cindy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pressure cooker was next. This part was a little unnerving, but we did it!

 

 

 

It took longer than I expected to bring up the temperature and pressure. We waited…and waited…and waited…

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

until the ideal pressure was reached (10-12 psi). Uncle David was our watchful eye!

 

 

While waiting for the jars to complete the process in the pressure cooker, we took a break to gather blueberries from the garden.

 

 

Once all was said and done, we had “put up” approximately 21 jars of green beans and we were nowhere near done with what had been harvested and snapped. I was pretty proud of our efforts today. I learned something new and spent quality time with family while doing so. Watch out Pioneer Woman, there’s a new girl on the block!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Canning (left) and Pre-Canning (right)

 

Babysitter Reunion

This week, I went to Houston for the week to visit some friends. Shawn was on daddy duty and I was off! I stayed with Kerri and Devin, a couple I used to babysit for when I was in High School. I was able to visit with kids from 3 of the families that have moved away since:

  • The Edwards (Devin & Kerri – Landon, Collin, Eli)
  • The Wrotens (Kelvin & Robin – Morgan, Mason, Micah)
  • The Sellecks (Paul & Liz – Jordan, Summer, Joshua, Spencer)

These families mean the world to me! I watched these kids grow up and I love them as if they were my own. I probably spent more time at their houses in HS than I did my own. :-)Summer flew in from CA for a few weeks, but I didn’t get to see the Selleck boys. (Boo!) Summer, Kerri and I spent lots of time shopping (Sorry, KK!)

We had a lot to celebrate this trip:

  • Collin & Mason just graduated from Spring High School in TX
  • Jordan graduated from Buena High School in CA
  • Summer will graduate from Buena in 2013
  • Landon just got a new job with Dell

We all met up for dinner at Chuy’s one night (Landon wasn’t able to go :-( , he started his new job just days earlier). Enjoy the pics!

Mason & Collin

Micah

Morgan & Summer

Summer, me & Morgan

Morgan, Summer, Mason, Micah, me & Collin

Robin, me & Kerri

It’s summer time!

We have had a great summer so far! Our days have been split between spending time at the pool with friends, going to splash parks and several summer camps. Here’s a sneak peek:

The Wales have spent A LOT of time with us at the pool. I love that our kids are growing up together. I went to college with their dad, Korey. Their mom, Melanie, and I teach together. She has become one of my closest friends. <3

Caegan waiting for the pass

It was impossible to get them to smile at the same time. :-)

Yum! Ice cream sandwiches!

Caramel drumstick!

While Maggie was a LEGO and computer programming camp, Mason and I had a playdate with the Bordelon’s.

Maggie building her LEGO robot-a ferris wheel

Last week, while Mason spent some time with MawMaw Jo, Maggie had a playdate at the park/splash-pad with the Authements, Jones and Parks/Springers.

Sweet friends!

Maggie & Jillian

What?!

I said, CAN YOU HEAR ME?!

Swinging with mom

At the end of the week, we went to the PARDS splash-park with the Wales boys. We had a lot of fun this week!

 

Family fun at the Perot’s

Friday night, we were able to spend some time with the Perot family. Paul and Shawn have been friends since high school, and were in each other’s weddings. We even had our first babies, Maggie and Nathan, within 18 hours of each other. ;-)

Maggie & Nathan

Paul and Courtney just happened to be coming through Monroe the same weekend we were heading up for the Crawford family reunion (post to come), so we decided to get together at Gene and Linda’s. I love hanging out with them because we pick up right where we left off. Friends (who might as well be family), a pool and Johnny’s Pizza-what more could you want?!

We were able to meet Rebecca for the first time. I selfishly held her most of the night. Sorry Papa Gene!

What a cutie!

I’m so glad we were able to work out the details. We had a great time!

Joseph

Mason

 

Crawford Family Reunion

This weekend, we traveled north to Downsville, LA to attend the Crawford family reunion.

Old home place in Downsville,LA

It’s always good to see cousins, aunts, and uncles from all over. This year there were over 80 people in attendance. What a great turnout!

Descendants of Rev. Joseph David Crawford and Julia Ella Clay Crawford

Cousins

Shawn’s paternal grandmother was Mamie Crawford Liner. We were missing quite a few from our group. :-(

Descendants of Mamie Crawford Liner & RoyLea Liner

 

Siblings: Claudia, Dale, & Sue (missing James-deceased)

There is always A LOT of food (potluck style), fishing, and Rook! Watch out for the eye contact and the use of sign language) :-)

 

Watermelon thanks to Tami!

Fishing with Daddy

A “friendly” game of Rook

The best part is always the memories we take away with us.

Sweet cousins

Sue, Rusty & Claudia

Memories from days gone by

The difference a year makes…

June 1, 2011

We had just put the kids to bed and Shawn offered to run to the store to get some ice cream. I jumped in the shower and when I got out I could hear him on the phone. I walked into the kitchen to find him stone faced and white as a ghost. Time stood still…but our emotions did not.

My father-in-law had gone on a church canoeing trip and 2 of his nieces -Tami and Linda- had gone with him (thank you Lord for arranging their presence). If you had known James like we did, he was Superman. He NEVER got sick, he NEVER got hurt. But on this trip, that was not the case. His canoe flipped over and he hit his head, got back up, flipped the boat over and kept going in the way the he always had. About 30 minutes later, on the bank of the Buffalo River in Arkansas, at 68 years old my father-in-law went to be with the Lord. According to a coroner’s report, he died from an “acute myocardial infarction,” better known as a heart attack, but my heart tells me otherwise. I will never be able to express my appreciation for Tami and Linda being by his side.

June 1, 2012

That day, a year ago today, is still as fresh as it was then. It’s “easier” being here and living life, but going back to family events is hard. He is supposed to “be there” just like he was every other time for the last 7 years (or the last 41 for Shawn).

I am thankful that our children were able to know James. He was a good man. He loved and served the Lord first and foremost, and in a close second was his family. He was also a member of the Air Force where he faithfully served his country during Vietnam. Whether it was time, a hug or a tool, if you needed something, he would find a way to provide it. He touched the lives of every person he came across, be it family, students, fellow teachers/administrators, credit union members, community and church leaders, or store clerks. I pray that my children know and understand the legacy he leaves behind.

Thank you James Lea Liner. We love you, Pops!