Thursday, October 23, 2014

Good Eats

I decided for both the benefit of recording some of these for myself and for sharing with others, I would post a few of our favorite recipes lately.  I have been trying lots of new things recently.  Some have worked out great, and some not so well.  But so far, no one is starving around here, so it's all okay.  This first one we made just last night, and everyone was happy with it.  I would recommend it as an appetizer or finger food for a get-together because it was difficult for me to figure out what to serve with it.  It's definitely a light meal item.  I served it as the main dish with some red beans and rice and a green veggie side.  A coleslaw would go well with this also.

Grilled Chipotle Shrimp
prep: 25 minutes
cook: 10 minutes
serves: 6-8

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1/4 cup adobo sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 lbs uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated lime peel
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp minced fresh mint

1.  In a small saucepan, bring brown sugar, chipotles, adobo, garlic, water, lime juice, oil, and salt to a boil.  Reduce heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat; cool completely.
2.   Transfer mixture to a large resealable plastic bag.  Add the shrimp; seal bag and turn to coat.  Refrigerate for up to 2 hours.  (I think I let it sit in the bag for maybe 30 minutes.)
3.  Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients; chill until serving.
4.  Drain and discard marinade.  Thread the shrimp onto metal or soaked wooden skewers.  Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, lightly coat the grill rack.  (I used the broiler and just misted some cooking spray on the broil pan.)
5.  Grill shrimp, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 inches from heat for 6-8 minutes or until shrimp turn pink, turning once.  Serve with sauce.

And now for a picture break.

Last homecoming...for now.

This next recipe was a little more work, but definitely delicious.  It did not stick around for very long.

Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 poblano peppers, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
8-10 flour tortillas
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie worked well for us)
2-3 cups Monterrey jack cheese

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime

1.  First make the sauce by melting the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.
2.  Slowly whisk the broth into the flour mixture.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
3.  Stir in the sour cream, cumin, salt, garlic powder, and pepper, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps.
4.  Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a blender or food processor.  Add avocados, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse until smooth and well-blended.  Remove lid occasionally so that heat can escape.
5.  Season with additional salt or pepper if needed.
6.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, poblano, and jalapeno, and saute for 5-6 minutes until onions are translucent.
7.  Remove from heat.
8.  To assemble enchiladas, place tortilla on a flat surface.
9.  Spread a tablespoon or two of avocado sauce down the middle of the tortilla.  Then layer some vegetable mixture, shredded chicken, and cheese.  Carefully roll the tortilla and place seam side down in a baking dish.
10.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
11.  Drizzle the top with about half of the remaining avocado cream sauce, then cover the dish with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through and begin to harden.
12.  Remove from the oven, then serve individual enchiladas drizzled with the remainder of the sauce.  You can also garnish with addition cilantro, cheese, and/or sour cream.

Another picture break.

Bronson racing at sports day...he's the boy in the purple hat.
And this is an old favorite from my mother-in-law.  I have made this one a lot lately.  It's great for bringing a meal over for a family with a new baby because it is easy to reheat.  Be careful with salt additions.  I have had a few batches that were super salty.

Cheese Manicotti
8-15 manicotti shells
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
30 oz Italian tomato sauce (or regular with your own added herbs and spices)
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 grated Parmesan
1 egg
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1.  In a 13x9 inch baking dish, cover manicotti shells with boiling water.  Let stand for 5 minutes, drain, and rinse with cold water. 
2.  In a skillet, brown sausage, crumbling as it cooks.  Drain.  Stir in tomato sauce. 
3.  In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Stuff the shells with cheese mixture.
4.  Pour half of meat sauce in baking dish.  Place stuffed manicotti on sauce.  Dot any remaining cheese mixture on top.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until shells are tender.

And now I will finish with a bowling picture.

My bowling dates...really excited!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Being in Japan

We love Japan!  The people here are amazing.  They go above and beyond when doing anything.  They are friendly, helpful, and will be your forever friend once you become friends.  It is so safe and clean here.  I do not feel weird at all walking at night by myself.  I also know that all the neighbor ladies know what's happening in our household and will watch out for anything unusual.  They have informed friends of mine when we were out of town.  I'm sure they know when Luke is deployed and when he is home.  They sweep the streets and keep everything tidy.  You don't really see much trash on the ground despite the fact that there are no public trash cans.  I have many Japanese friends who have translated all kinds of things for me.  They get text pictures of food labels and Facebook messages with school papers.  I am so thankful for the kind of community we have here.  Even our American friends rely on each other so much.

But lately I have been missing America.  I miss how easy it is to go for a drive or to shop.  I miss wide open spaces and grass and trees.  I miss English.  I miss the Food Network.  I miss Target.  I miss dishwashers and normal laundry machines.

This past weekend, Bronson's school had a Bon Odori festival.  It sounded like so much fun.  They would have dancing and games, and everyone would be dressed in their Yukatas.  Kawaii!

Bronson's teacher, whom he LOVES!

The other American kids at Ayase Kobato Yochien
Bronson's class

LOTS of people


I thought it was interesting how they carried out this event.  It was SO crowded.  The school yard is not that big, and they stuck a big stage in the middle of it.  Add all the teachers, kids, and their parents and siblings, and it was quite the event.  They had games for the kids to play as well.  I was picturing the event to have an organized welcome and program (dancing) for the kids, and then they would be released to the parents to wander and play games.  No, that's not how they do things.  Everything was scheduled out, so that each class walked from station to station to quick play the game under the time limit so everyone got a turn.  Then there was a water break, and the dancing began.  Parents wandered around trying to get a glimpse and picture of their kid as they played each game and then did the dances.  It was crazy.  It was hot too.  

By the time the dancing began, Bronson was quite done with the whole thing.  He spent most of the dancing time sitting and throwing dirt in the air.  I think the crowds and lack of understanding any of the instructions was a bit overwhelming for him, as it would be for anyone.  There were a few kids who cried the whole time and ended up being held by teachers.  That was a huge thing that I thought was different than how an American preschool would do it.  If the kid was upset, they would just pull them out and let the parent deal with it instead of making the kid endure the whole thing.  So funny!

Overall, it was a fun experience.  I love seeing Bronson do and say what they trained the kids to do and say.  They always do a greeting and goodbye, and Bronson knows those well.  He also loves all of the songs that they sing.  It is reassuring to me that he enjoys it and is learning.

And you have to end with a naked baby

Friday, January 31, 2014

Recent Books I've Read

by Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D.

This is a book that was recommended to me by a few moms while I was pregnant with Bronson.  I didn't start using the tips in it until he was 3-4 months old, so it took him a while to get in a routine.  But once he was in a normal routine, it made a huge difference in my days and nights.  He became a very good sleeper during his pre-toddler and toddler months.  This book gives information on sleeping, eating, awake time, and other advice for newborns and young infants.  I just reread this book a couple months ago, and have been following some of the basic tips since the early weeks after James was born.  He is a much better sleeper than Bronson and has really benefited from being on a daily routine.  This book did not have step by step instructions like I had longed for in those early days with Bronson, but you can't give specific instructions to all parents when every baby and parent is different.  This book was written by the same authors that wrote "Growing Kids God's Way", which is a Christian ministry and curriculum for parents.  I have wanted to go through the GKGW series as well.  

by C.S. Lewis

This is a series Luke kept encouraging me to read.  I had a hard time getting through the first one, although I thought it was good.  This one I really enjoyed and got through it much faster.  It was more of a fantasy story than a science fiction read.  I loved the symbolism in it to represent Christ and Satan and angels.  I know that some of it was a little above my head, but I liked Lewis' perspective on how other worlds/planets with life could potentially exist.  The story is about a man from earth who goes to a new world that has just begun.  

The only other books I have read in the past few months have been nursing textbooks, which I'm sure you do not want to hear about.  The next ones I'm looking forward to pouring myself into are:

by Beth Moore

There is a group of women that I am meeting with weekly to study the book of Daniel.  I am looking forward to seeing what the Lord is planning to teach me through this study.  I am hoping I'll be able to keep up with the homework.  There is also a group of guys (husbands) that are also going to do this study separately.  It will be fun to go through a study alongside Luke.

by Kate Atkinson

The squadron book club is reading this one this month.  It sounds like a very interesting read.  I don't think I'll be able to read it in just a couple weeks time with all of my schoolwork, but it will be fun to read it eventually.  The discussion at book club is always fun.

So what are you reading?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to be a mother of two boys

You know, sometimes I really wish there was a manual on parenting, especially now that I am outnumbered.  It would be so nice to have step-by-step instructions to follow for every situation encountered with two kids.  But there are just too many possibilities.  So, for now, we just have to take one thing at a time and figure it out.

This has been my main struggle the past few months (actually five months).  I have felt like everything I tried to accomplish was a struggle.  Nothing was coming easily, not even a shower.  When Luke deployed Thanksgiving weekend, I had no desire to even attempt to leave the house.  When I finally did, it took us a solid 45 minutes to finally pull out of the driveway.  I couldn't figure out who to put in the car first and who to leave by themselves.  I also felt like I was constantly saying, "Just a minute, Bronson.  Please be patient."  I realized that Bronson was either used to getting his demands met immediately or he was seeking extra attention because of my scattered brain and having to spend so much time in contact with James.  For this problem, I realized that I really needed to make some one-on-one time with him, which is harder than it sounds.

It's true that there are daily struggles, but I am happy to say that I can get us out of the house in about 15 minutes.  :)  I don't feel as flustered when grocery shopping with both boys, and I seem to be getting into a rhythm with them.  I have found ways to entertain Bronson while nursing James.  The floors are now generally clean (thanks to my husband who got me a robot to do it for me), although the sink is never empty of dirty dishes.  I have to admit that it's not easy, but God has been showing me areas I need to change, and He has also made it very evident that I cannot be a wife, mother of two, friend, and nursing student well without His help.  I have had moments of desperation when I didn't think I could continue this way and cried for His guidance and provision, and have had immediate relief.  He is a compassionate and nurturing God.

These have been some encouraging verses for me during this time.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

I have to say that seeing Bronson dote on James makes me so happy.  He loves his little brother, even though he sometimes gets too rough.  And James loves to watch his big brother.  I cannot wait for them to be able to play together.