Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Candid Cook - Fajita Stuffed Chicken

Some things just look so delicious you have to try them at least once. That's what happened with me when my friend, Terri, posted a video of how to make these babies on Facebook.

If you want to see the original video (and to give credit where credit is due, here's the link to the video on Buzzfeed). However, I tweaked a number of things from the given recipe to reflect our family's tastes. I felt like the amount of seasoning the recipe called for was way over the top, so I reduced them to a reasonable amount. Also, I cut back on the cheeses a bit as well. I wanted them to be cheesy, but I didn't want the cheese to overpower all of those yummy peppers and onions. These babies are so full of flavor that I recommend my version over theirs any day. 

Fajita Stuffed Chicken Breasts
(Each stuffed breast is actually 2 servings, so keep that in mind when deciding how many to prepare for your family meal.)

3 chicken breasts, trimmed
garlic powder
chili powder

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. sliced onions
2 cups chopped bell peppers (I used mixed colors)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. colby jack cheese (grated or cut into small cubes)
2 oz. pepper jack cheese (grated or cut into small cubes)

Before you start cooking, you're going to want to do as much prep as possible. Chop your veggies, shred/cube your cheeses, and trim your chicken. Then take each chicken breast and slit it down the side so you have a place to stuff that delicious filling. 

Next we're going to gently flatten the chicken breasts just a little bit. This helps make it easier to stuff, and will also help ensure that the chicken is completely cooked through without having to burn the outside. To do this open the chicken along the slit, and lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top.

Then, with a meat mallet, firmly (but not too hard!!) flatten the chicken until  it's the same thickness throughout. The final thickness will depend on how big your chicken breasts are, but mine are usually about 3/4 inch thick. 

Finally, remove the plastic and flip the chicken over. It's time to season the outside of the chicken, Sprinkle with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and a little bit of salt. Rub it in gently and set the chicken aside.

Now it's time to get cooking! Heat your olive oil in a non-stick frying pan (one that has a lid, preferably), Add your onion and saute' over medium-high heat until your onions start to lightly brown on some of the edges.

Add your chopped peppers. Isn't that beautiful??

Season with salt and pepper and cook until peppers start to get tender. (Keep in mind that the pepper will continue to soften while the chicken is cooking, so don't overcook the veggies in this step!)

Transfer veggies to a medium mixing bowl and set the pan aside (off the heat) to use again in a minute. (Do not wash the pan!!) 
Add cheeses to the pepper mixture while it's still hot. 
Stir together until well blended. Not all of the cheeses will be melted, but that's okay. It'll all melt together while you're cooking the chicken.

Now it's time to stuff the chicken! With the seasoned side down, place 1/3 of the filling in the center.

Fold over and repeat the process with the other two chicken breasts.

Look at the pan you cooked the peppers in. It should  have traces of olive oil and seasoning in the bottom,. That's excellent. Place it over medium heat and it get nice and hot again. Add an extra drizzle of oil and swirl it around if you think you need it to keep the chicken from sticking. Then, carefully place the stuffed chicken into pan. (I find it easiest to transfer the chicken with a large flat spatula and a fork holding it together.)

Cover and cook for 3 minutes,

Uncover and cook another 2 minutes. 
See how some of the "guts" are falling out a cooking in the pan? 
That's totally fine. It's amazing, actually.

Once it has cooked for a total of five minutes on one side, it's time to flip it - carefully. You might lose a little more filling, but try to keep as much of it in as you can. Now it's time to repeat the pattern: 
Cook covered for 3 minutes
Uncover and cook 2 more minutes

Remove the pan from the heat and let the chicken sit in the pan till you're ready to plate it. 
Once you take out your stuffed breasts, you'll see some leftover peppers and cheese in the pan. Whatever you do... do NOT throw it away. 
It's Delicious. 
(And yes, that's with a capital D.)

Now you have two choices: 
1) You can reward yourself for all of your hard work cooking dinner and eat it straight out of the pan. I won't judge you.
2) You can share with your family by putting a little on each plate. 

As you can see here, I was nice to my family and shared the joy. 

These are soooooo addictive! It's one of those meals you'll be remembering for days...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Preview for Old Man's Cave

One of the things I have been looking forward to the most was taking Dorothy and her family to visit Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills area. Figuring we could drive 2 cars and I could drive back early instead of going on a lengthy hike, we decided to make the trip down this past Wednesday despite the fact I was still sick. I just downed some ibuprofen and prayed for stamina. It was worth it.

Maddox is such a poser. He's so adorable, and he knows it!

I loved looking up at the bridges from down in the gorge.

Lots of fun overhanging rocks!

K-Lynn and Gwennie taking a quick rest on a boulder with a view.

Unfortunately, this is really just a preview of The Old Man's Cave for me. I never saw the actual "Old Man's Cave" (assuming there is one) and never actually got to hike the trails, but my mom and I did take a small introductory tour to whet my appetite for our next visit.

It can't come soon enough!

They Make Me Happy

We had a great visit this past week from Dorothy's family and my mom. Unfortunately, I came down sick on Monday and I spent a good chunk of their visit sleeping on the couch. On the bright side, Dorothy took Maddox out for some fun on Tuesday while my mom stayed with me. She helped with laundry, did the shopping, and got me flowers.

And every day they make me smile.

Thanks, Mom!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Maddox in the Morning

Maddox has always been a super early riser. After months of suffering through 5 or 5:30 a.m. wakeups, we finally put a digital clock in the boys' room and told them they weren't allowed to get up until a specific time (depending on the day). I came across the clock unpacking boxes today, and had this conversation with Maddox.

Me: C'mon, Maddox, let's go put the clock up in your room.

Maddox: No, I don't need it.

Me: You don't?

Maddox: No, I can wake up whenever I want to now.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Our Palo Duro Adventure

Since we only have about 2 weeks left in Oklahoma before our move to Ohio, I decided to take the boys,  Olivia, and the dogs on an overnight trip to Amarillo and the Palo Duro Canyon.  Not only is this likely our last chance to see the "Little Grand Canyon", but it would also give me a chance to see how our dog, Trixie, travels before setting out on a 13+ hour trip to Ohio. So yesterday afternoon we drove to a hotel in Amarillo and stayed in a hotel overnight. (For those wondering why Kelsey didn't come with us, she is currently in Utah with friends and enjoying a visit with her fabulous Uncle Danny, Aunt Jessica, and cousin Jackson.)

***As a side note, I learned that Maddox is too light of a sleeper to share a hotel room with dogs that may need to make a potty run at 4 a.m. When he wakes up at 4, there's no going back to sleep. And I seriously need to bring some melatonin for Connor when we are on the road if I want him to fall asleep before 10 p.m. But on the bright side, Trixie doesn't get car sick! This bodes well for our drive to Ohio.***

Before I get to the pictures from the hiking trip in the Canyon, I'm going to fast-forward a bit to two incidents that happened on the way home - both worth remembering.

Incident 1: Comedian Cop
     After leaving the park, we headed back to Amarillo to gas up the van and get some lunch before making the 4-hour trip back to Edmond. Since the canyon is SE of Amarillo, that meant backtracking a little out of our way. (For those who need a geography lesson, Amarillo is in the Texas panhandle, due west of the OKC area.) I happened to be in a construction zone on the highway heading west and not paying attention to my speed, so a policeman pulled me over. He asked us where we were headed, and I told him we were going back to Oklahoma after seeing the canyon. 
     He must have wondered about my answer, because he asked me again, "So, where are you headed now?" 
     "Back to Oklahoma," I replied. 
     "You do know Oklahoma is in the other direction, don't you?" 
     Yes. Yes, Mr. Police Officer. I do know. But thanks for letting me off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket!!

Incident 2: Dead Battery
     A little over an hour from home, my battery light in the van came on. I watched it and worried, but didn't really know what it meant so I kept driving, hoping and praying we'd make it home without incident and I could get my car to our mechanic. Within about 20 minutes, all my gauges had stopped working, and I knew we were in trouble. I called our mechanic and he told me to find a local auto shop and get someone to charge our battery so we could get home and he could take a look at it. Fortunately, we were almost to a town that had what we needed. I called the closest mechanic and he told me I could stop by and he'd help me out. As I pulled off the interstate into town, I hit a red light and the van died completely. A couple of really nice guys (did I ever tell you how nice the people are in Oklahoma??) came to my rescue and pushed me through the intersection into a parking lot. A lot that just happened  to be almost directly behind the mechanic I was aiming for. And as an added blessing, a city park was directly across the street! Olivia took the boys and Trixie over to stretch their legs and play, and I got help from the mechanic. A mere 45 minutes and $10 later, we were on the road home and made it safely. So although it wasn't the way I wanted to end my "last" Oklahoma adventure, I was grateful it worked out the way it did!

So, this trip to Palo Duro Canyon Park this morning...

I wonder if this sign was trying to tell us something?? Falling hikers maybe??

The first thing we did after getting into the park was stop near the visitor's center to get our bearings. The kids quickly learned that this plant was painfully sharp. The green blades are pretty stiff and the tips? Those are thorns. Long, sharp thorns. Apparently we aren't fast learners, though, because I'm pretty sure that each of us got pricked at least once before we left.

I asked the boys to take a picture by the sign, and they started goofing off. In order to get them to be serious, I said, "Be respectful, boys, you're by the flag!" That's when Connor struck this pose. Little turkey. I couldn't argue, though... a salute is respectful!

Olivia found great satisfaction in  sitting on this wall next to a drop-off. I don't know why it makes my stomach do flip-slops to see it, but it does. Every time. And now that she knows it, Olivia takes every opportunity she can to make me suffer!

Although the most popular trail at the park is the Lighthouse trail, we opted for an easier one since we had the dogs and a long drive home.

Trixie seems to like hiking, but I'm not sure we like taking her. We can't get her to drink water out of anything except her usual bowl, so it was hard to watch her panting and thirsty. Annabelle didn't mind the hike at all. Although it was probably because she spent the time in the backpack pet carrier that I was wearing. Yes, I have become one of "those" pet owners. It's a little humiliating, to tell the truth!

At one point the boys wanted to go climb up on this ledge for a picture. Maddox tried to climb up first, but he couldn't make it alone so he asked for a boost. Connor tried to give him one by letting Maddox climb on his back. It didn't work, but it was funny to watch!

Fortunately, Olivia came to their rescue and got them up there.

And now a few more pictures of our scenery and the boys...

When did Connor become such a ham? Usually it's Kelsey and Maddox making crazy faces at the camera!

Overall, it was one of the longest 28 hours of my life.
But we're still glad we went.
Mostly, though, we're glad to be home.
And especially glad that the boys (and dogs) are asleep in their own beds...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Welcome 2016

It's hard to believe another year has come! I've been so lax in this blog, but something tells me that's about to change. I started this blog when we moved away from South Carolina and came to Oklahoma. And now, over 7 years later, another change is in the air. Ben started a job last week in Columbus, Ohio!

For now I'm here packing and cleaning and de-junking the house with all 4 kids and our 2 dogs. Ben's living in rented condo space in Columbus and working on finding us a house there while I work on selling this one. I've closed the home bakery, I've stopped watching the cutie pies I've been caring for over the past 2+ years, and it's like I don't even recognize my life sometimes. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I've been too overwhelmed to be heartbroken about the move yet. Mostly.

I've loved Oklahoma. I've loved the people here. I've made some special and close friends that will be extremely hard to say goodbye to. Yet I'm also excited to move closer to our east coast family and friends, and for Ben to have this new opportunity. I'm so conflicted!! And I know I'm not the first or last person to go through stuff like this. In our world today, it's almost an expected part of life: everything changes. People move ALL OF THE TIME, but I'm not one who likes to do it. I like to put down roots and make myself comfortable. Yet I also know God has been good to us this far and He's not about to start letting us down now.

And since every good blog post has pictures... here's a few. To help Ben get set up at his new office, we printed a collage of some of his favorite pictures from this past year and I figured I'd put them on here, too.

Okay, this one's a little older (Christmas 2014?) but it's a favorite of mine and Ben's. How I love this man!

Olivia's been dodging the camera a lot lately, but we got to her to pose with Hazel on her lap this past spring. She's got a great smile, doesn't she?

Kelsey after her last Thunder game performance with C4C this past spring. It's hard to believe how much she has grown up just in the 8 months since this picture was taken!

Connor just being adorable.  He does that a lot.

Maddox on his first day of Pre-K! Here's another kid who has decided to grow up on me.