Friday, March 6, 2015

FF: Sweet & Spicy Bacon Chicken

I had such a hard time picking which recipe to share! We had three new meals, this week, which will definitely be regulars from here on out. I decided that I want to make a cookbook for our family because I hate looking in ten different spots for recipes. With so many neat do-it-yourself websites, I'm thinking this is the year to do it! All that to say, the pressure of a year-end release, has me trying more new recipes than usual.

No one around the dinner table is complaining...well, except for Ty. He'd prefer to have some version of pasta every night of the week!

Today's recipe is SO EASY, yet so mouth-watering delicious.

This recipe comes from Just a Pinch , but because of the limited instructions, I'll save you the time and put it below.

Sweet & Spicy Bacon Chicken

Sweet & Spicy Bacon Chicken Recipe....wrapped in bacon, sprinkled with chili powder and garlic powder, then rolled in brown sugar.  Love the sweet with a kick! 

All you need is:
Chicken
Bacon
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder
Brown Sugar
Cook your bacon in the oven at 400 for about 5 minutes. You still want it to be pliable so that you can wrap it around the chicken (I used boneless/skinless chicken tenders).

While your bacon is cooking, put a cooling rack inside a foil lined pan. This allows all the bacon drippings to run off your chicken and into the foil (easy clean-up!) Lay your chicken on the rack and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. I did a light sprinkle of each and got amazing results. When the bacon is done, wrap each chicken tender in bacon and then - here comes the WOW factor - roll the bacon wrapped chicken (liberally) in brown sugar.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

The blend of caramelized flavors had every boy licking their fingers - even Tyrus. He only gave my chicken a 1, but deemed the bacon worthy of it's own category.

We served this up with salad, biscuits, and strawberries, but the chicken was the true talk of the table.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saying No

We have a lot going on.

Little Missy has had a rough month of doctor appointments. She is in a Early Headstart program that initially caught her vision and hearing irregularities. After several failed tests, we are moving forward with next steps. We did her glasses fitting, today, and boy do I wish I could show you a picture because she is adorable!

The hearing issue is a little scarier. I sat in the booth with her at her last testing and cried every time she couldn't hear the audiologist call her name. She can hear mid and high tones, but missed all the lower levels. She is going to have tubes put in her ears to help the sitting fluid drain better and then we'll do further testing. I am praying that the tubes are our answer!

Our visitation with dad has not, legally, been suspended, but we've been, temporarily, relieved from making the hour drive each week to the agency. I have limited information, but dad is missing and must have done something that warranted our case worker to petition the court for termination. Although, I am sad that he was not able to push forward after 90 days of sobriety and progress, I am so, SO relieved. I finally have complete peace in my heart that our daughter will be with us forever...even if the process drags out for several more months.

We signed all of our adoption paperwork for Sweet Boy. We have all the needed county and state approvals, we're just waiting on our finalization court date. It's a big tie on who is more excited - us or him.

During the wind of activity, last month, we were called about fostering Sweet Boy's half/Little Missy's full baby brother.

Saying no was both the easiest and hardest decision we've had to make when it comes to this process.

Our answer was not a flat "no". We would love to adopt him and allow him to grow up with his natural siblings, but for so many reasons, fostering him is just not what is best for our family, right now. And that's the part that breaks my heart...because I feel like one of the many voices putting their needs/policies about what's actually best for him.

But, it's right for so many reasons.

Managing the schedules of six people (two working adults), with the added complication of a foster care routine (visitation, therapy, home visits, and driving an hour for medical appointments) is near impossible. Logistically, committing to a seventh schedule that will require three weekly visits with mom, is just not realistic.

If that was the only barrier, we would have figured it out. Especially because I am not ready for our story to end with mom. My love for her is so unexplainable and not easily shaken.

The biggest definer for me was Sweet Boy. He has come so far in his security, but we have to handle his heart, gently. He still has moments of complete panic and needs to be reassured, overtly, that our love is never-ending; his home never-changing. We had one of these moment, this past weekend. I don't think his little heart could handle the stress and emotion of another little person in the house, right now, especially a person that could equate to loss.

Even though baby brother would, likely, stay...for mom's sake, I hope he doesn't. I hope that she can find the will to thrive. I know better than anyone the complexities that lie within that statement. I know what my children have suffered and are paying for because of her poor choices...but my love for her will not allow me to give in or give up. I want her to succeed this time.

The system is way too unpredictable to think through all the different scenarios. Baby brother might come to us, eventually, or he might not. Either way, we pray that God protects his spirit and hope that we'll have relationship with him.

We've always operated with open hearts, but leaning on God's direction is critical when it comes to making such life defining and changing decisions.

Saying no is not always easy and sometimes might not even make sense, but affirmation is realized when coated in everlasting peace.




Friday, February 27, 2015

FF: Kielbasa & Potatoes w/ Homemade Mac 'n Cheese

 


We actually had this dinner, last night, and it was SO yum. The perfect comfort meal and it earned rave reviews from everyone but Ty...he related it to dirt. What a buster.

Kielbasa and Potatoes
I found this Mom Foodie recipe HERE. I know it doesn't look like much...but it's a must-try! SO GOOD. I took the suggestion at the bottom of the recipe and heated my potatoes in the microwave for six minutes before pan-frying them to save time. This dish was full of flavor!




I also served up this simple, Homemade Mac'n Cheese recipe from That Which Nourishes.

This recipe for homemade mac and cheese has been featured on several top mac and cheese lists. It is the perfect base recipe for classic mac and cheese.

Our fruit and veggie sides were very simple - jarred applesauce and broccoli. Our favorite way to eat broccoli is to lightly saute it in olive oil with Wildtree's Rancher Steak Rub. My boys (all four of them!) eat it in pounds.

Of all the new meals I've made in the last several weeks, this one was the BEST!



Monday, February 23, 2015

The File


I knew, nearly, ever word that I read. It wasn't that I wrote them; rather I am living them, every day. Yet, as I read through Sweet Boy's file for the first time, today, I choked back sobs.

There is a reason the agency does not allow foster parents too close. There is a reason they hold back beginning details that shape the children that come to care.

Only God could love through the injustice.

We live in the country, which wouldn't qualify, except that in subzero temperatures, we put off the walk to the mailbox for as many days a possible. I don't know how long these haunting words sat, preparing for our first meeting, but when I, carefully, opened the first page, I did it with quiet esteem.

I didn't let Ben in at first. There is something so private about reading your child's missed moments. As a woman - as his mother - it's a right to life I missed. I never felt him press in my womb or gasp for life. I missed four birthdays. I wasn't in the police car, he so, vividly, remembers. I missed his most terrifying moments.

The gap filler is a simple, neat file, written from a legal perspective. I remember the day I read LJ's. We didn't know him, love him, or even know what he looked like.

Reading Sweet Boy's file was much, MUCH, harder. He is already my son. The birthing pains that brought us to today, were more painful than this barren belly were prepared for.

His assessment summary was right on. Sweet Boy frequently "vomited without physical cause...was distant from his foster family and reported to have a flat affect...he had heightened anxiety most of the time...he stutters when nervous...struggles in his interactions with peers...sensitive to conflict...he will hit himself to self-discipline...he is not comfortable with physical affection...lacks all self-confidence...he has a diagnosis of adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood."

Processing the summary was not difficult because the blood of Jesus dripped on every word and stamped REDEEMED over every lie of the enemy. Sweet Boy's therapist was in tears, this week, as we work through graduating him from therapy. She marveled at how secure he is.

His increased confidence, affection, and open heart are never lost on me. I know how far we've come.

It is a complete privilege to be a first-hand witness in God's victory.

Page 2.

My heart was not ready to read the next page. I'm not even sure how I will get through typing this.

Sweet Boy is three weeks old. CPS receives a complaint. X, Y, and Z is happening and Sweet Boy is crying most of the time. He is not being changed or fed.

I closed my eyes and allowed myself to mourn the baby that survived this without his mother. Thanking God for protecting him, but wishing it all to be different.

I took a deep breath before picking up where I left off.

My blurred vision made it impossible, but after confirming three times, I realized Sweet Boy dropped off the grid for three years due to several moves outside of Michigan. I, mentally, had to force myself to move past the horrors my mind conjured in the absence of information.

Several more CPS allegations were made. None of them were easy to read...but this was the hardest. Mom and Sweet Boy are moving from motel room to motel room, sleeping on the floor, and "there is no food for [Sweet Boy]."

Mom admitted to selling their food stamps for heroine and that Sweet Boy had not eaten in two days.

I can't stop crying.

I cried when I read it to Ben; I'm crying now.

I would cry over ANY child that was forced to go days without food....but this....this isn't any child. This is my precious boy. The son that God gifted to me. The son that kissed me for the first time a few weeks ago. The baby that would crawl in bed, next to me, because he had the same, reoccurring, nightmare for months in a row. The tender-heart that prays for his mom and Missy's dad - the same people responsible for his neglect. The same little guy that asks me at least six times before EVERY meal, what we're having.

For months, I've been annoyed by his questions. Telling him to stop asking after the first time.

I knew he was helping collect cans for food, but I never let my mind wander enough to what that meant for my one, two, three, and four year old son.

He probably always asked six times about what he was going to eat, hoping that one time the answer might mean something else.That his question might soften the hunger pains in his belly.

That is just too much for this mama heart.

I can't write more.










Friday, February 20, 2015

FF: Creamy Chicken and Asparagus



This week's recipe was delish. My kids live for pasta, but I am pretty picky when it comes to sauce - especially alfredo. I took the time to shovel a quick walkway to our grill (we're, currently, buried in snow), so that I could grill my chicken and remember summer. It was well worth the 15 minutes of subzero temps.

I always bake my bacon at 400 for 20ish minutes and pan-fry my asparagus in a little bit of olive oil and sea salt.


You can find the original Cooking Classy recipe for Creamy Chicken and Asparagus here


Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Pasta | Cooking Classy

I paired it with our very favorite Olive Garden knock-off salad (Recipe Here; mid-page) and fruit medley (apples, bananas, and clementines).

Sweet Boy is not quick to award a five-star, but I would say this was pretty darn close to a home-run. Sissy wouldn't eat the asparagus, but she DID manage to eat her body weight in alfredo and bacon!



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bravery

Sunday marked one year since bringing home our new lovies.

Even though we hit this same mark with LJ, I am still surprised at how significant it is. Something happens at one year that smooths the remaining wrinkles and fills your heart with much hope for the future.

We were reading our devotional for the night that focused on bravery and the importance of trying new things. When I asked each boy of a time when they had to be brave, Sweet Boy, was quick to share that he conquered his fear of riding his bike without training wheels, this summer. Tyrus piped in, "Mom, that's called being a risk-taker." (Earlier in the night, he looked at Ben and, referring to me, said, "Dad, doesn't she look cute with a ponytail?" I'm not sure if the age of his soul is 5 or 25 at this point.)

After each boy had a turn, Sweet Boy said, "I was brave when I had to ride in the police car to my middle house with my bag of stuff next to me." We have talked about this moment a hundred times over the last year, but it never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

"I know, honey. That was SUPER brave."

The conversation turned, quickly, to our upcoming court hearing where Sweet Boy will be given our name. I ordered all of us t-shirt jerseys that say "Team Pinchback". The boys are very excited to wear their own, as their names and numbers are on the back. We talked about how much fun the day will be, when someone asked if Little Miss would get her jersey that day.

The conversation was very organic and accepted with a level of maturity that surprised me. We talked about Little Miss and her parents. What could happen, as well as what most likely will happen. We talked about drugs and alcohol and how they cause people to make poor decisions.

"Mom, what is their mom's name, again?" Ty asked.

When I told him, his answer was so sweet and innocent, "But, mom....she doesn't sound bad?"

It was the perfect opportunity to explain how good people make bad decisions. As our conversation weaved in and out, Ty made a point of asking "So there are bugs in the drugs that start eating your brain that make you make poor choices?"

Their summary may not have been exactly on point...but their take-away was.

We talked a lot about the importance of good family and how all the parents represented by our kids (minus Miss Rebekah) didn't have that. When the firehouse of questions ended, mostly regarding Missy's dad, Sweet Boy said, "We should pray for him."

For a moment, time stood still and I marveled at his depth of love.

Over the year, we took as many steps forward as we did back. We had to push through forced feelings; learn how to process delicate memories; overcome nightmares, anxiety, loss; sledgehammer walls of lies and negative influence; and walk a careful line of expressing affection.

But, today...one year later...it was all worthwhile. He is one of us.

And I've never met someone so brave.



Friday, February 13, 2015

FF: Cheesy Ranch Chicken


I am excited to roll out my first ever Food Friday.

Cooking is something I've always enjoyed, but it's even more fulfilling with such a big brood to satisfy. I thought it would be fun to spend Fridays, sharing our kitchen with you.

One of my greatest mentors passed away, last year. She improved my life in a hundred different ways, but the single most important thing she ever taught me was over my first meatloaf lesson (which is amazing, by the way). She told me this - Do you want to know the secret to satisfying your husband? What keeps your kids home during adolescence?

Serve the best food.

I've never forgotten her advice and it has helped me shape my own philosophy on dinner:
  1. There has to be variety
  2. It has to taste good
  3. It can't take more than an hour
First you have to understand the dynamics of our family. I'm a working mama, so time is precious and planning is priority. Ben doesn't get home until six, so we are sitting down ready (with pjs on!) by the time he walks in the door. When it comes to the littles - Ty and Missy are picky pants, we liken LJ to a garbage disposal, and Sweet Boy is somewhere in-between. Because I am not an order-to-make restaurant, I've gotten into the practice of making four dishes (main, side, fruit, and veggie) every night to alleviate two of the children from going hungry...most nights.

Here are some rules that have helped us:
  1. Each kiddo has to try every dish - every time, but they can choose not to finish their plate.
  2. No one can request more of anything without finishing their other items first.
  3. Those that finish their plate get to pick a "treat" at the end of dinner. Not only does this help us eat down the candy bowl that tends to stale over the year, but it's also a pretty perfect solution to get the kids to power through their veggies. 
One more thing. We injected a level of excitement several weeks ago when we enacted a rating system for each brand new main dish (I do at least one a week). The boys are on a five-star system (1 = dirt; 5 = best meal ever). My mathematical husband disputed the scale, immediately, declaring need for more granularity, so the two of us rate meals from 1-10.


Now for the food!

Cheesy Ranch Chicken

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cB4KUKHJpjs/UPxP30qjbNI/AAAAAAAABpU/VlPfLuq3Ro8/s1600/cheesyranchchicken.png

I found this Table for Seven recipe here.

I paired it with pan-fried asparagus, homemade applesauce (peel and place large chunks of apples in the crockpot with a little bit of cinnamon), and boxed mac 'n cheese (yeah, we do that).

So, YUM, and 4-5 stars from all the boys (a big feat!)