Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Weeknight Recipes :: Chicken Artichoke Quesadillas ::

I've gotten into the habit of posting what's for dinner on Facebook.  People keep asking for recipes, so I'm adding a new section to this blog (since it's more 'business', and less narrative like my Ramblings), wherein I will post my recipes and show how the meals come together.

My meals have four requirements:

1.  They must be easy and quick.
2.  They must be relatively low calorie (which means not a lot of creamy sauces).
3.  They must be made with as little processed food as possible.
4.  They must be flavorful.  Really.  I don't like bland food.

Usually, I keep my pantry stocked with a certain set of ingredients, which I then pull from to make all my meals.  I know what I like, and what tastes good, so that's just what I buy!  Everything the following recipe was made from, I just had on hand.

First on the list, the inaugural recipe ..... (drum roll) .....

Chicken Artichoke Quesadillas

Simple and easy to prepare, the artichokes in these quesadillas lend a nice tang.  Pile on mushrooms, avocados and cheese, and you can't go wrong!


1 jar artichoke hearts
sliced mushrooms
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1 cup shredded cheese (I used colby jack, since I had it in the fridge)
4 chicken breasts
tortillas (I used low carb ones, again, what I had on hand)
Miracle Whip (You can omit this, but I thought the quesadillas would be too dry without some sort of dressing.  If you're looking to cut more calories, then by all means, leave it out!)

1.  Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then cook them up.  You can either saute them in a skillet, or grill them.  I just bought a nifty griddle that fits over two burners on my stove, so I used that.  Slice the chicken.

2.  Stage all your ingredients close to your griddle or skillet (whatever you plan on cooking your quesadillas in).  Spread Miracle Whip sparingly on two tortillas.  Slap one tortilla, Miracle-Whip-side up, on the griddle.  Scatter chicken, then layer avocado slices, mushrooms and artichokes.  Sprinkle cheese over all, and top with the other tortilla, Miracle-Whip-side down.

3.  Let the first quesadilla cook while you assemble another one (assuming you have a griddle that can handle two quesadillas at once.  If not, you'll have to wait and do them one at a time).  Once the second is assembled, let it cook while you flip the first.  Cook the quesadillas until each side is toasty brown.

4.  Repeat the process, assembly line fashion, until all are cooked.  I made four quesadillas, which easily fed everyone with leftovers for later.  These suckers are fully loaded with lots of healthy yumminess, and are very filling!

5.  Serve with a fresh garden salad.  I keep two heads of romaine, a red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots in my fridge at all times so I can assemble salads easily and quickly.  I usually keep a salad bowl that I just add stuff to whenever it gets low, then toss the 'new' veggies in with what was leftover from yesterday.

6.  Enjoy!  I know we did.  And while you're eating, say it all together - "Just make yourself a dang kay-sa-dilla!"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week 2 in Review, and the Pros and Cons of Home Schooling

So we've been doing home school in earnest for two weeks now.  Sophie's started Kindergarten, and Xander's been doing some preschool work.  I had meant to take lots of pictures and blog the lessons, but it's taken more mental and physical energy than anticipated just to start up the rhythm of schooling.  Here are some quick impressions from the last two weeks:

Homeschooling Pros and Cons:

Pros - 

  • I'm spending a LOT of time with my kids.  I really love having the focused, one-on-one time built into every day for Sophie and Xander.  And they love it, too.  They beg all morning to start school, because they love sitting down with me, and having all of my attention.  
  • My house is cleaner than it was this summer.  Weird, I know.  You'd think that with more things on my plate, I'd have less time for housework.  But I've always thrived on schedules, and I have cleaning time built into our day.  We get up, eat breakfast, see Daddy off to work, then buckle down for two hours of cleaning. The kids help me, by cleaning their room and the family shared spaces, wiping down the bathrooms and kitchen cabinets with Lysol wipes, vacuuming, dusting, picking up outside, and loading the washing machine.  We're becoming a team, versus before, when I did all the work and they played around me. 
  • The lessons are fun.  Really.  I love teaching, and have missed it.  I really enjoy planning lessons, and teaching them.  I'm getting some intellectual stimulation in an area that has laid dormant some time.
Cons - 
  • Less social interaction.  I've noticed the kids getting more snappy at each other, and know they miss their friends.  At the library the other day, Sophie struck up a conversation with a little girl, which she normally doesn't do.  I think it shows that she misses being around other kids who aren't her brother.  
  • Less down time for me in the afternoon.  Up until this point, we'd been taking nap / quiet time from 1:00 - 4:00 every afternoon.  I got spoiled with three hours of alone time every day to recharge and get stuff done (like surfing the Internet, reading blogs, very important, I know).  Now, Xander, Sophie and I do combined school for an hour or an hour and a half before lunch, then from 1:00 - 3:00 Sophie and I work on her stuff while the boys nap.  I have been extremely tired and drained by the time 5:00 rolls around as a result. I'm hoping my endurance will build up, though, and that will become less of a problem.  
  • I can't help but feel that my kids (Sophie especially) are missing out on some fundamental experiences by not attending traditional schools.  There's a nostalgic part of me that mourns that Sophie will never experience the first day of Kindergarten.
What we've covered this week (like I said I wish I had the foresight and time to take pictures and blog some of these lessons):

Xander - 
  • Working through the alphabet, one letter per week.  We're learning the capital and lower case forms (which he mostly knows) and the letter sounds (which he mostly doesn't know).  So far we've done 'A' and 'B'.  We're working through a preschool workbook I found, which as the alphabet, numbers, and tracing.  He loves it.  I also put up a magnet board, on which we do some counting and patterning activities.  He's working through a Kumon cutting book.  
  • Every day we have calendar time (I'll write a post and do pictures of it later), with both kids.
  • Xander does some science work with Sophie, the stuff that doesn't involve a lot of writing or concentration.
Sophie - 
  • Writing - Every day she writes in her journal (so far it's all been stories, and she LOVES it.  Like mother, like daughter!).  She does a page in her D'Nealian handwriting book, and also practices her letters on a ruled white board.  I integrate a lot of writing into her science, as well.
  • Reading - 15 minutes of independent reading every day.  We use a timer, and she gets to pick what she wants to read.  So far, it's been Bob books and Dick and Jane readers I've gotten from the library.  We do phonics work using a workbook I found at the library, and also Phonographix, a reading recovery program I was trained in during my college years.  
  • Math - Math-U-See, Alpha.  LOVE it.  She just got to addition of 0.
  • Science - We're following the Core Knowledge sequence for Kindergarten (free download!).  I'm planning the units around field trips I want to take this year.  Next month we'll be visiting a local apple orchard / working farm, so right now we're doing Plants and Plant Growth.  Week One was a unit on Apples, covering the Core Knowledge topics of basic plant parts.  Week Two we covered that plants make their own food (and some REALLY cool lessons on chlorophyll, which I might recreate for a photo op so I can blog it), and what plants need to grow (sunlight, warmth, soil, water).  
  • Social Studies - nothing for now.  I've decided to alternate focus on Science and Social Studies, so that we can really go deep.  
  • Art - Apple stamping, a trip to the art museum in El Paso, some books about art from the library (the 'Touch the Art' series is really cool), bubble painting and primary colors.
  • Music - Some CD's from the library with basic children's songs on them.  We'll be covering different music genres later.