All posts by Dianna

Cheesy BBQ mini pizzas

Summers are often about the quick-and-easy dinner or grab-and-go lunch around our house.watermelon

It’s also the season of take-out BBQ.  Soooo… it was only a matter of time before our leftover BBQ transformed beyond the boring sandwich.

 Here’s a dinner hack for that leftover BBQ meat that’s not quite enough to make a full dinner again for the whole family: the easy-peasy Cheesy BBQ mini pizza!

Grab a package of mini naan or cut any flatbread into single serve portions. Drizzle with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Naan bread with BBQ sauce

Sprinkle with shredded cheese. I had a package of colby-jack in the fridge, but any combination of shredded cheese you have available will do.

Naan with drizzled BBQ sauce and cheese

Place a scoop of shredded barbecue beef, chicken, or pork onto each naan and spread to desired thickness.

Tip: if you warm up the meat in the microwave before assembly, the baking process is quicker.

BBQ on naan

Sprinkle with more shredded cheese…because who doesn’t like MORE cheese?

Cheesy BBQ naan

Bake in 350-375 oven for 7-10 minutes (depending on how full you loaded your pizzas) until the cheese is melted and the bottom is crisp.

Cheesy BBQ mini pizzas

Serve with a side of fruit & send your crew out the door to their next summer activity!

The variations of these mini pizzas are endless. You can add veggies and any variety of cheeses or meats to personalize to your family’s tastes.  Smoked chicken is a definite winner! I keep a package of mini naan in the freezer and when I have a likely crop of leftovers, I serve them up this way.  (You can tell by the darkness of my baking stone that it gets a LOT of use by these quick  dinners.)

Sometimes I feel like I’ve pulled off a little magic trick, but my family reacts like these are a hit every single time. Permission granted to disguise your leftovers into mini pizza wonders: go for it!

Winner, winner: chicken packets for dinner!

Sometimes you accidentally stumble onto a family favorite without realizing you have a winner at your messy fingertips. If you need a simple “tried and true” recipe to perk things up this summer, let me introduce you to the wonders of Chicken Packets!chicken packets

The first time I tried this recipe was way back in our “early married” days when the budget was perpetually tight and our arsenal of recipes was woefully limited. This little gem was hidden deep within my first experience of batch cooking and I didn’t recognize its potential for greatness at the time. (Everything got a little hazy after the vat of spaghetti sauce simmered its tantalizing vapors throughout the kitchen.)

I dare say I was a bit intimidated at the whole prospect of a WHOLE DAY of cooking. My dear friend, Melanie (who also just happened to be a registered dietician), coached me through the marathon cooking day and our husbands were delighted with a freezer full of goodness as the end result.

Once-a-Month Cooking bookSince then, I’ve made Chicken Packets for many occasions (the arrival of newborns, moving days, condolence meals, neighbor farewells, family get-togethers, and welcome dinners for visiting friends) yet these tasty chicken packets are treasured for their simple everyday heartiness.

My tattered copy of Once-a-Month Cooking* is a testament to the versatility of Chicken Packets. The original version was for 4-6 servings. I’ve adjusted for our family’s preferences and cranked the amounts up to have plenty for dinner and some for the freezer.

dinner prep for Monday
Dinner prep: Monday

Gather up this cast of characters and let’s get started:

10 cups of cooked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (a 5-lb bag of frozen chicken breasts, boiled until fully cooked is about the right amount)
3 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (reduced fat works fine)
4 Tbs of chives (fresh or dried)
2/3 cup milk
salt & pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
8 packages of crescent rolls
4 packages of seasoned croutons, finely crushed
1 1/2 sticks of butter (melt when ready to assemble)

cream cheese in large bowlIn a large bowl, stir the cream cheese until its texture is smooth. Add chives, milk, and parmesan cheese, then sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.

Add chopped chicken and mix thoroughly.chicken mixture The batter is stiff, so use a sturdy spoon (and perhaps enlist a helper to strong-arm it a bit!) and keep stirring until ingredients are well combined.

Set bowl of chicken & cream cheese  mixture aside (or refrigerate,  covered, if baking Chicken Packets at another time).

When you’re ready to begin the assembly process, preheat the oven to 350 and get out several baking sheets.

crescent roll prepOpen crescent rolls and unroll gently onto greased cookie sheets or directly onto a silpat liner. Instead of separating into triangles, pinch the seams to form a rectangle with each pair of triangles. You will get 4 rectangles out of each can of crescent rolls.

Place a scoop of the chicken-cream cheese mixture into the center of each rectangle.
chicken packet fillingFold up sides and pinch the edges together.
folding up chicken packetscrushed croutons & melted butterBaste each packet with melted butter, then roll gently through the crushed croutons until generously coated.
chicken packets, ready to bakePlace packets onto cookie sheets and bake 20 minutes in preheated 350 oven. Bake until the packets are golden brown (if lifted with spatula, the bottom of the packet is firm rather than soft).chicken packets, fresh out of oven

– – – Ring that dinner bell and get to devouring some yummy goodness! 

 



The great thing about Chicken Packets is that they can be eaten immediately or stockpiled for later in your freezer!



crushed croutons (freezer)Two options for freezing:
  1. Freeze the chicken-cream cheese mixture and crushed croutons in separate freezer bags. Thaw & assemble later with the remaining ingredients per instructions. Bake, then serve.
  2. ORbake chicken packets fully as instructed above, allow to cool, and freeze packets for later. On the day you’re planning to serve them, pull the desired number of chicken packets out of the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator all day. Microwave 1-2 minutes until heated through. Bonus touch: put in 350-degree oven for a few minutes to restore the crispiness of the croutons.


The beauty of this winner recipe is its versatility for baking when it’s best for your dinner schedule.

**Individually, they also make substantial after-school snacks or for a quick on-the-go meal for busy family members.



If you’d like to try a smaller serving size, simply use the triangle of the crescent roll & repeat the same assembly process. (My boys like to experiment with the ratio of filling to crescent roll.)single chicken packetson-the-go chicken packets

I hope you enjoy adding this recipe to your Family Favorites!

*this post contains affiliate links

 

Landing zones & Launch pads

In the fast shuffle of summer activities and quick transitions from one camp to the next, our landing zones tend to attract odd bits and pieces of our lives, gaining depth and dimension at warp speed.  messy desk

Graduation announcements from last month mingle with lingering Christmas cards, awaiting that elusive moment of “getting around to it” for mailing a congrats card or transferring a friend’s address from the cute family photocard into our phone contact list. Our good intentions taunt us from these leaning stacks of paper and unprocessed mail each time we pass by on our way out the door.

That workbench out in the garage for “projects?” Yep, it gets piled high with everything from replacement toilet seats and seed packets of spring flowers that didn’t get planted to athletic shoes that have to be returned because feet have grown too big for them. One season of detritus gloms on to the next and soon you have a mishmash of holiday decor and unrelated sports gear teasing you as you park your car each evening.garage workbench

These landing zones of our lives naively begin as “planned” triage centers (assess urgency, prioritize level of importance and divert onward) but sneakily become perpetual messes that overwhelm us, nudging us toward stagnation rather than action.

As moms, we often become the landing zone for our family members, too. We gather stories from our kids about their latest interactions with friends, reactions to something Coach said at practice, or quirky things that happened at youth group. We get inundated by requests for new shoes, spending money for lunch with friends, or last-minute items needed for a camp that starts tomorrow.cubbies

Requests, logistics, multiple schedules, deadlines, menu planning, and household responsibilities land on us repetitively throughout the day. Demands of family life pile up on us, little by little, until we feel bogged down.

Inertia starts to feel familiar and perhaps even a little cozy. It might be easy to succumb to frustration and exhaustion because we constantly feel like the target zone for problem-solving and distribution central.

Another way to view the chaotic landing zone in our home is to see that it also serves as a launch pad. From this dumping ground of nitty-gritty details of busy family life also springs the data resources to point our crew in the right direction. The schedules, sports agendas, camp registrations, invitations, announcements, and endless stream of college brochures are landmarks for our kids’ journey through childhood. WE are their navigators. 

As we absorb the impact of our children bouncing off of us as they hurl themselves into a variety of childhood experiences, we can empower them to launch from us in a healthy way. If we are able to provide some rallying encouragement and emotional steadiness while they are refueling in our safety zone, they will gain confidence in their own trajectory.cloud art

Sometimes it isn’t easy being the staging ground for these multi-faceted, difficult-but-necessary tasks to be completed before an impending countdown. Although you feel the pressure tangibly building for launch and feel a little clumsy with all the delicate maneuvers, the outcome can be intensely rewarding for each successful takeoff.

So, hold steady, my friend. Reinforce those buffering systems. Let that striving child take flight in his own way. Breathe. Pray. Repeat. While awaiting his sweet return, clear your landing zone and prepare yourself for the next liftoff phase. Provide that foundation of a strong legacy of faith. Solidify his base now so as he launches farther and more independently, he is clear and focused on his ultimate flight plan. Remain steadfast in this training period so you’re both ready to launch well.

Legacy page of Bible Quilt
Legacy page in my #BibleQuit

 



Stay “in the loop” with us this summer:

Ordinary Threads Facebook group

Ordinary Threads shop



Fathering Footholds

Last week while dropping my son off at camp, I was directed to park in my “place” amidst the caravan of cars parading in to deposit youngsters for the week. Unfortunately, my “place” was in 6+ inches of meddlesome mud. My son & I rallied to embrace this unexpected mire. We changed our shoes and soldiered onward. The mud slowed our pace as we took methodical steps to release the suction clinging to the bottom of our soles.
Ssschhhhmucckkkk!”  “Ssschhhhmucckk!” hissed each shoe, flinging droplets of mud up the back of our legs. As we plowed our way through the sloshy mud, we grinned at each other and aligned ourselves shoulder to shoulder as we arrived at the check-in corral.  My son’s eyes sparkled as if to say, “I’ve got this.”toe to toe in the mud

Ok, so there was a little grumbling involved on my part as I had to McGyver my way back to the car & magically transform my mud-encrusted feet back into drivable footwear, but I sensed we had made a memory…and something more.

In the minutes before exiting the dry refuge of the car, we rallied to problem-solve and put our heads together on how to get ourselves and his belongings to his cabin relatively dry (aka: not dropping anything into the mud along the way). These little moments are ways we teach boys how to remain calm, to access resources, and to think quickly about their next choice. It’s an opportunity to establish a confidence foothold…a tiny nudge to show this excited 11-year-old boy a glimpse into being a resourceful adult in a sticky situation.

mini me
mini-me

Each time  we are able to model confidence and grace in a stressful moment, we reflect those abilities back to our children so they can see themselves as confident and capable.

As Father’s day approaches, I’ve been thinking about experiences that have been fathering footholds for my boys. 

We want our boys to mature into capable adults, faithful  husbands, and loving fathers. This transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but in the minutia of daily life with an added layer of thoughtfulness woven in. If we don’t nudge, cajole, and shape these boys in social courtesy and “gentlemanly” prowess, how do they develop these skills so they’re finely honed and naturally expressed when these young men are adulting out there on their own?

boy in tieI appreciate the “expectations” certain extracurricular groups set to reinforce these niceties. Learning to tolerate the discomfort of formal concert attire for orchestra performances or wearing business clothes all day for a key club convention is a good life lesson. Learning how to present themselves, make eye contact, and endure public speaking contributes to that young boy “trying on” the weight of adult responsibility in a supportive environment.

teen drivingAs parents we also have snippets of training time throughout our daily activities:

– mentioning a few pointers re:  driving  etiquette as our teens chauffeur us around on errands

– encouraging them to hold open doors or to return grocery carts for the elderly or frazzled mothers with toddlers

– sitting patiently in the passenger seat, awaiting one of the guys to open your door (and being gracious when it’s clear that you can do it yourself yet patiently allowing your young man to demonstrate this gesture of kindness)

Family vacations that broaden children’s perspectives and enhance an appreciation for things outside their “normal” have long-lasting impact.

yellowstone

I’m thankful for the encouragement and support that my boys have gotten along the way to offer them some fatherly footholds. Each of these positive contacts contributes to these young boys developing a foundation of manly self-confidence.

mentorteachers that have gone beyond the classroom to challenge and mentor them in positive ways

a father that lets them lead, but is available with the backup map when needed

passing on a legacy pin

the grandfather that passed along his National Honor Society legacy pin to his grandson being inducted 60 years later

 aunts that have repeatedly purchased popcorn and household gadgets through a variety of  fundraisers

outgrowing unclesuncles that have teased and talked sports with the boys, making a big deal of the ones gradually outgrowing them

the kind elementary school principal that greeted each student by name at the door  each day

a youth group pastor that meets them for donuts and reinforces their brotherly bonds

work crews that enthusiastically help on Eagle Scout projectseagle scout work crew

father's day a Grandpa that drives long distances to join in Father’s Day activities and tease them about girls…and the whole nine yards

grandmas that have cheered for them on the sidelines of their chosen sports or clapped enthusiastically after a musical performance

Each time someone SHOWS UP and demonstrates interest in what a young boy is striving toward, that boy gains confidence about the young man he is becoming. It fuels his drive and motivates him along his path.  It strengthens his armor, readying him in unseen ways for his future role of husband, worker, or father.
Baylor familySo, we wade through the mud with our children. We engage them in face-to-face conversation. We cultivate a love of our own alma mater, yet also release them to choose their own school that fits them best. We celebrate their wins and comfort them in their losses.

 

"Father" Bible Quilt page
Bible Quilt: Father page

Each day in small, ordinary ways, we offer our boys little fathering footholds and entrust them to their ultimate Father figure, praying for guidance and growth.

As we celebrate the Dads around us this weekend, let us also be mindful of the young boys observing the fatherly traits all around them. Each interaction matters.

Grandpa and me
Grandpa and me

 

In honor of Father’s day, here’s to my grandfather who was a “gentle man and a gentleman.”

You shepherded us well, Grandpa. We love you!

 

 

 

Exhale

Whoosh!

balloonsAs we pushed through the last week of school and immediately catapulted into the first two scheduled summer activities, I found myself feeling a bit like a deflated party balloon. My outward self was still trying to celebrate my boys’ last day of school yet my inner self was no longer floating high with anticipation just wearily hovering low and fading into smallness.

Summer and all its sunny expectations of FUN was here, but I wasn’t feeling it. I kept waiting for the bright mantle of “summer” to fall upon me, but found myself struggling to muster up excitement for the usual burst of summer activities. “What’s the deal with me?” I wondered.

– – – I forgot to exhale. – – –

The fullness of the school year had pressed in hard from all sides, nudging us along from one end-of-the-year culminating event to the next and sweeping us through finals week. Although I hadn’t taken a single exam or given any oral presentations, I had buffered and nourished these souls that were putting their all into their last school days. The truth was that we were all tired as we approached the finish line of another academic year.

Even if we aren’t the main player on the field, the sidelines are a busy place of support and encouragement as we prepare our players to get out there to do their best. As parents we’ve put in hours of training, too, but may not recognize the toll it’s taken on us. We may not be aware of  the moments we’ve been holding our breath as the next play unfolds before our eyes yet just beyond our grasp.

heart puzzleOn the last day of school, I awoke each of my sons and celebrated the moment of transition into their next grade level. As I looked into each sleepy face, something slipped inside me. A gear subtly shifted inside this mother’s heart and I paused to absorb its impact.

While each of my boys  is excited to move on to the next phase  of school, this promotion  also means a natural step closer to their independence. Celebrating their growth this year also means recognizing their progress toward stepping out on their own one day in the future, slipping away from our home and my dinner table. These were some heavy thoughts to bear in those first hazy moments of “the last day,” so I tucked them back in and moved toward a celebratory breakfast, focusing on their joy.

climatis openingLater that day as I added another envelope to the growing stack of graduation announcements, engagement party/wedding reception invitations, and college brochures, I realized we’re all in the metamorphosis of May. These transformations elicit all the feelings and soak up all the energy. As we dive in to celebrate each milestone, we want to savor each moment.

We also need to remember in each one to breathe . . . to embrace this shift of change in our loved ones and loosen our hold just a bit. (It’s good practice for the next “biggie” after all.)

– – – We need to remember to exhale. – – –

It’s in this exhale, where we can discover the joy of letting go…

to blow out the candles
to blow a kiss to a sweetheart
to blow that dandelion fluff as far as it will fly
to blow a pinwheel just for the delight on a toddler’s face
to release tension that has been building within us
to watch our children soar
Psalm 105:4
Bible Quilt – Psalm 105:4

 

As we celebrate these changes and allow ourselves a moment to exhale, we’ll realize the sunshine is a little brighter and our hearts a little fuller.

We may even discover that we’re ready for the longer days of summer after all. 

 

 

Now AND later

geranium, vincaEvery spring my green thumb gets  revved up to plant ALL the pretty flowers, but by the end of the summer I find myself wondering why I planted ALL these flowers that I have to keep watering?  

Sometimes in my experimental gardening, I stumble upon some tricks to keep the “chore” level down and the “joy” level up. 

coreopsis and petuniaThe past few years I’ve tried to resist the colorful array of annuals prominently placed at the front of every garden center and I’ve foraged a little deeper back into the section of sturdy perennials.

I’ve adopted a few that have done really well in containers and I rejoice each spring when there’s something GREEN already hard at work so that I have less to  spruce up. I’ll often add a cheerful geranium or a go-getter petunia for a bonus splash of instant color, but I feel like my perennial friends have my back both now AND later.coreopsis

In much the same way we are planted in each other’s lives. Sometimes we are casual acquaintances, exchanging cheerful greetings as we pass at common places in the midst of school activities or day-to-day errands. These interactions are brief and pleasant interludes but may not have lasting impact.
With other people, our connections go deeper and we find ourselves establishing tender roots to stabilize our friendship now yet also hold firm for us later on when we may need support. It takes time to develop and nurture these roots, but the rewards later are priceless.

Perennial friends will blossom through multiple seasons together and withstand the turbulent or bleak periods of life.

plant medleyThroughout our lives we will have a variety of friendships, some temporary & bright in certain seasons and others that continue to thrive year after year. The beauty is in the MIX as these connections complement each other and fulfill different aspects of our lives.

A Sweet Friendship
Katie Doucette: “Friend”

 

When a flowerbed of loyal perennials is brightened with fresh annuals, the whole garden becomes a lovely array of color. We appreciate the varied textures and expansion of hues in this broader collection of flowers.

As generations of women come together in friendship, roots are stronger and the variety of blooms is richer. We savor the depth and substance cultivated in these multi-tiered relationships.

women's handsThis past year, I participated in a multi-generational Bible study with a lovely group of women. With a widespread collection of ages and family backgrounds, perspectives were broadened and wisdom flowed each Wednesday morning. Every week we experienced beauty in the “now” of the current discussion and sharing of life stories. During our farewells in the closing session last week, it was sweet to reflect upon new friendships taking root and look forward to how they will develop later.

strawberry plants

As the school year draws to a close, many families are in the transition of closure activities and celebrating graduations. 

Hopefully each of us has nurtured some perennial friendships along the way which will  bear fruit for many more seasons to come.

 



“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9