Tag Archives: connection

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

 

Random Acts of Kindness

What’s a Random Act of Kindness?  Many times it’s a small or large  action done for a person to bring them joy. The beautiful by-product of doing a Random Act of Kindness is that it usually   blesses the giver too. 

Last week my family took out on a 1 week adventure to a Family Camp. It was the 5th year for us to go; we look forward to the play and relax time we have as a family each year in this place.  We pick many excursions throughout the week that puts our focus on fun together. But this year we stretched beyond our comfort zone and chose to spend a day serving in a camp nearby that has many sponsors helping to make it happen. We knew very little about Kids Across America when we drove there at lunch time. Our kids had agreed to trade a day of play for a day of work without hesitation, but we all felt the weight of the unknown as we got there. 

I can say without a doubt that the afternoon turned into one of our favorite parts of that week! There were things in that experience that were familiar, but there was much that seemed foreign to us. It was good for all of us to break out of our molds and work hard and learn new things and meet new people. It turned out to be  a wonderful day of planned Kindness.

The week before Camp, we had stopped at a Sonic for cold drinks during some errands. While ordering,  I got 2 extra Cherry Limeades for women we would see on our outing. When we got to the office, they had left for the day, but my boys were concerned on what to do with the extra drinks...in a random act of Kindness we began looking for the first 2 people we could find to share the drinks with. The 2 we found were so happy to receive an unexpected drink! There was joy and surprise and laughter and conversation all over a cherry limeade!! We got back in the car and marveled at how that situation had turned out; it was so random, but really blessed our day. 

A woman I met just the other day spoke some wise words to me in the brief time I had with her…she paused in our conversation and told me to ponder the word Growth. And so I am; and it is such rich word with many layers. There is room for growth in each day; Random Acts of Kindness will follow.  I encourage others to tuck that word into your hearts this season. 

On our Bucket List of Fun for the Summer, we have decided to add many more Random Acts of Kindness to our weeks. Both big and small endeavors reap large rewards for all involved. I hope many others will invest in these Acts; they refresh ones Spirit in huge dividends of growth!!

planting seeds

Tis the season of Girl Scout cookies and the first blossoms of spring.

Is it just me or does every home improvement store have an over-abundance of shiny lawn mowers on display and flocks of Girl Scouts grinning their gap-toothed smiles, asking if you’d like to buy some cookies?

Although I only had a brief venture into the world of Girl Scouts, I learned a couple important things I tucked into my bag of tricks:

Girl Scout thin mint cookies1) The first lesson, of course, was that Thin Mints cookies could pretty much sell themselves and that diehard fans put them in their freezers to “save them for later” (translation: hide them from the kids).

2) The other key thing I learned as a Brownie was the song “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” At the time I thought this meant I would have a treasure trove of sparkly friends to last me all my days. It took a few more years for me to understand that meeting new friends was fun, but maintaining friendships for the long haul was just as vital and full of its own sweet reward. What a great life lesson for a young pig-tailed girl to carry along with her even though her Girl Scout days were few!

Now as an adult, I have the opportunity to gather up boxes of Thin Mints from bright-eyed eager girls as easy as a brief stop while running errands. The friendship piece, though…that’s even trickier now than it was when I was the new student almost every year in grade school. Then I had the structure of school activities and the dubious recognition of always being the last person in every line since my last name started with a Z.

As busy mommas it’s hard to cultivate friendships anew and hold on to the wisps of friendships past. At the same time we’re trying to build our own network of relationships, we’re also nurturing our children’s friendships, helping negotiate playdates and shepherding our kiddos to make good choices in their interactions with others. Their world is so much different than our school days in which “social media” was passing notes without getting caught by the teacher.childhood notes

Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone and plant a seed of friendship, then patiently wait while the hectic pace of daily life churns on around us. It may take weeks or even months to get a glimpse of that friendship blossoming a little more. We may have to keep being the one to introduce ourselves at parent meetings, join a new Bible study, or volunteer for something that puts us closer to the action. In these awkward situations, I remind myself  “baby steps, Dianna” and take encouragement from the fact that my boys have been steadily surging forward in their new relationships, too.

We discovered that little gestures can go a long way. A few months ago, we put a bike rack by our garage and invited boys that lived farther from the bus stop to park their bikes there. My son is now having more contact with neighborhood kids because we made ourselves just a little more accessible — a little more transparent to those around us.

Adults (or at least us introverted ones) seem to have a harder time showing this transparency. It takes courage for us to show our vulnerability, having outgrown that marvelous age where we could simply ask, “Will you be my friend?

Bible Quilt friendship page
Bible Quilt friendship page

Friendship is a lovely gift from God. Many verses reflect this truth of connectedness.

Are you missing a friend connection? Would you like to have some more friends in your inner circle? Hang tough. There’s more to your friendship song and to mine:

“Silver is precious, Gold is too. I am precious, and so are you. You help me, and I’ll help you and together we will see it through…” 

Since I’ve experienced the heartfelt joys of long-term friendships and have been fortunate to have seen best friends from high school and college in the last month, I know it’s worth it to invest in these friends of silver and of gold…and whatever lies between. I cling to the  threads of my dear close friends through texts, phone calls, emails and Voxer to hold me over until our next face-to-face gatherings.

blossoming pear treeIn the meantime, I’m tentatively testing the soil of potential friendships in my new surroundings. We just have to keep planting seeds in our interactions and step out of our comfort zones…who knows, we might bump into someone who is seeking the same sweet connection. And, if we get to share Thin Mints in the process?? That’s a win-win in my book!

 

______ is patient, _____ is kind.

We have a chance to love those around us each day, but today especially the expectation is high. (Do you feel it?)

Sometimes we  just need to reflect on words of  Truth…

Love is patient

pine needle quiet

Love is kindThanksgiving flowers

 

It does not envy or boast

boys goofing around

Love is not proud, rude, or self-seekingFlorida blooming

It is not easily angeredstorm cloud

It keeps no record of wrongsgreen grass

Love does not delight in evil

lily pads

Love rejoices with the truthmountain stream

 

Love always protects

Love always trusts

mom tackle

Love always hopesholding hands

 

Love always perseveresgrowth despite hardship

Love never failsrainbow in storm

I Corinthians 13:4-8  “the Love chapter”

Love is patient...I remember an activity we did in a junior high Sunday School class long ago. We had to read these verses to ourselves but replace “Love” with our own name:

Dianna is patient…

Dianna is kind…”

THAT puts a whole new spin on this passage and reminds me of how much I’ve fallen short of loving others authentically. so.many.times. I’m grateful for God’s grace and mercy to keep trying to love as He would like us to.

However your Valentine’s day unfolds, may you experience His love, the ultimate valentine. ❤️

 

 

Love is in the Air

 

love  Thank You, Lord, for the Sounds of Love.

There are so many we appreciate and are thankful for. Our ears are receiving them daily. When you pause and make   a list of your personal love notes, the sounds become even richer.

Here are a few of mine…

Prayers out of my children’s mouths. 

Praise songs on the radio.

Gentle guidance in my husbands voice.

Birds singing.

My boys’ giggles over pure silliness.

Picking up the phone to hear a loved one’s voice on the other end.

The family dinner bell.

A chat with a friend over coffee.

“Please, thank you” and an endless surplus of “I love you” from my children.

 

painted-birdsAll of these are God’s Love Notes to  us throughout our day.  Look for Sounds of  Love; they are a melody written for you and me. These sounds are all a reflection of Christ’s love. Each day we contribute to the sound. Is it a sweet or aggravated noise?

 

I can Love Loud: by being a cheerleader or advocate for someone. My words can build-up a self-esteem.  I can use my mouth to pour out encouragement. I can share Christ’s Love by demonstrating actions that result in life-changing Love.

I can Love Silent: from a distance, with unfailing stamina my voice can quietly lift up prayer for someone going through a painful trial. I can be watchful as I use Love Notes of Hope to form a prayer. I can rejoice quietly when I watch the Lord conquer the plan meant for harm.

I can Love Deep and Wide: by emotionally investing, pursuing and pouring out for a loved one. With a no-going-back mindset  I can plant Love Notes that I water and fertilize by using words of hope, peace, love.

I can Love Sideways: by partnering with someone that needs an arms-length approach. A peripheral friend to scatter a Love Note when needed for someone to get their bearings on a situation.

And sometimes Love Just Happens: in an unexpected moment, I can see a need and” rise to the call”.  Acting in a moments notice without much thought or preparation I can add encouragement  with a Love Note because I have been tuned into listening to the Lord’s  Love Notes over me.

Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. Psalm 63:3

you-are-so-loved

Walls

History is filled with walls being built to define and protect country borders. History is also punctuated by walls crumbling or actively being torn down to bring people back together.

This post is not about politics. This is about the human condition.

wallIn our vulnerability as humans, we erect walls between one another, too. Just like the stones and mortar stacked layer upon layer to build a sturdy wall, we also build one divisive layer at a time until an almost tangible barrier lies between us. Friendships halt; relationships wither.

brick wall, adding layersAt first this barrier may have seemed self-protective in nature. We erect a buffer between us and someone else to gain a little personal space.

We retreat to ourselves to ponder a change in our relationship – perhaps we even give in to a good pout while we’re at it.

If we don’t sift through our thoughts and feelings in a way that’s objective and balanced, however, we soon find ourselves casting everything about this relationship into a negative jumble. We lose perspective and discover we’re in a deeper mess than we intended.

Slowly and somewhat sheepishly, we realize we’re more than a little skittish about how to seek our way out from this dark wall we’ve hidden behind.


We…..are….STUCK.

brick wall with holeBeing in a standstill in a relationship is no fun. Hurt feelings get piled up on both sides of the wall. Heavy hearts weigh down our ability to cope with one another in a reasonable way.

It’s so hard to make the first effort to knock a chink in that wall…yet so worth it.


“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32


I think forgiveness may be an underrated superhero skill. It has such a powerful impact once we have the humility to employ it. Forgiveness can squash those barriers between us so quickly that we wonder how we had built these walls so clumsily to start with.

Saying “sorry” is not just for kindergarteners to practice their social skills on the playground. It’s for ALL of us.

Extending forgiveness to a friend or loved one is not easy, but often is the first step in healing a relationship. It allows the light to break through that murky veil that has clouded our communication. With gentle strength, forgiveness collapses the selfish defenses between us. Our footsteps become lighter and we see the hope of moving forward together again.brick wall crumbled


Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8


Love well during this season, friends. May we each have grace with one another, especially during those tender moments when we may need to exchange forgiveness rather than a Hallmark valentine. ❤️