Monday, April 14, 2014

Easy Chicken Alfredo

Pregnancy has done a number on my desire to cook. This didn’t surprise me at all in the first trimester; after all, nausea was a way of life for me for what felt like forever. But, as I moved into the second trimester and now the third trimester, I have been a little surprised that my desire to cook hasn’t returned. Every time I do settle in with my favourite knife and Dutch ovens, it quickly becomes drudging work rather than the joy it used to be.

So, solution? Easy, easy, easy. The only requirement I have for the meals I do end up getting on the table is simplicity. This means we’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches and platefuls of perogies. True, perogies are delicious, but they get a little boring after a while, not to mention a complete lack of balance.

Recently, I was introduced to Kraft’s new shredded cheese, Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia. It’s been specially blended with just a touch of Philadelphia cream cheese, which causes it to melt like no other shredded cheese, so soft and creamy. The possibilities for it seem endless: cheesy tuna melts, nachos so melty the cheese is all that matters, casseroles covered in just the right amount of gooey cheese.

But, my thoughts went to Alfredo sauce. When I was in university, I ate a lot of Alfredo pasta dishes, unceremoniously dumping the full contents of a jar of canned Alfredo sauce over noodles with chicken or shrimp thawed from frozen. If I was getting fancy, I might have added a pepper, but I was a student: vegetables weren’t particularly important to me back in those days.

My eating habits have certainly changed. I can no longer justify alfredo sauce from a jar. The expense of it for the questionable nutritional value means it never finds its way into my cart at the grocery store. This week, I discovered that it really isn’t that hard to make my own, from scratch, with a little Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia to help.

It was delicious. The husband agreed. The baby agreed. And even better, it was so easy to whip up.

Chicken Alfredo

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
3 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 package Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia
¼ cup cream

  1. Over medium heat the olive oil in a large pan or skillet.
  2.  Add the onions and garlic to the pan. Saute until the onions are slightly translucent.
  3. Add the peppers and cook for a few minutes, then add the chicken.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and veggies, and mix in.
  5. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly to make a roux.
  6. Reduce heat. Add the Kraft Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia and watch it melt into the mix deliciously.
  7. Mix in the cream to make it even creamier. 
  8. Serve over cooked pasta of your choice.

The cheese and its memorable melt definitely made this recipe. I used the Creamy Herb and Garlic flavour because I love garlic, but I’m looking forward to trying the Creamy Mozza and Creamy Mexicana flavours too. There are a lot of other recipes to try on the Kraft website too, just as easy and delicious as this one. Make sure you check them out!

If you crave even more new recipes and dinner ideas, check out the Kraft Twitter Party too! @KraftCanada will be hosting it on Wednesday, April 16 at 9pm. Use the hashtag #TouchofPhillyCheese to keep up on the conversation.

Make sure you let me know if you try this recipe and the new cheese. I’d love to hear what you think.

Disclosure: Although this post has been generously sponsored by Kraft Canada, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Kraft Canada.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Letting Go of Things

Yesterday morning was garbage day. As the husband gathered the kitchen garbage and compost to whisk out the door, I thought for a few minutes, just to make sure that the decision I was about to make was actually the right one. Then, I sent him upstairs to get the chairs.

Nesting has come out in me in the form of purging. I'm certain this is a symptom of living in a small house. The longer I live with something I don't use, the more I want to get rid of it. Just, get it out of my house.

I've had these chairs for a few years now. The one on the right spent 10 months in the garage before emerging, triumphantly reupholstered. It was a wonderful learning experience, that I wouldn't exchange for anything. The red one, I picked up from a neighbour's garage sale, excited to find a matching chair to go with the one I already had.

But then, as often happens with things in our house, Kingsley's puppy teeth got into them. The seat cushions were destroyed. the arm of the red one chewed apart, the trim on the white and grey one ripped off in one satisfying puppy tug. I can fix them, though, I insisted. They'll still be perfect!

Problem: when it comes to comfort, I don't like these chairs much. They're awesome for about 15 minutes with my feet tucked up underneath me. And then, of course, my feet fall asleep and every other position seems inadequate.

So, yesterday morning, as the husband got the garbage out on the curb, I made the decision and out the door they went. As I watched him carry the first one out, the one I spent hours reupholstering, I felt a slight twinge of regret, regret that the chairs had become so dilapidated so quickly, in such bad shape there was no way we could even donate them, regret that I don't have the dedication to an attractive home to sacrifice my comfort, regret that I never got around to reupholstering the second one at all.

I didn't have long to see them sitting on the curb though. The chairs were gone, swallowed up by the back of a dump truck before I left for work. And, I was ok, letting go of a couple things that at one time, I thought were so perfect for our little space. Our needs changed. It's ok. It happens.

Now, our attic bedroom is even emptier than it was before, the chairs making way for a crib. Their absence has, however, brought up a new question: where will night feedings happen? Bed? Maybe. Or, will I prefer a comfortable, back-supporting chair tucked into a corner? If so, where am I going to find that chair?

I suppose it's time to go shopping.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Laundry Closet That's Actually A Closet

For months and months - wait, years? - our washer and dryer have been sitting under the stairs in a laundry closet that had yet to be built.

For 3 years, it's always been a plan to hide them. After all, they create a lot of visual clutter that I've never been fond of. Originally, we planned to stack them, but the more I used them, the less I enjoyed the process of getting wet clothes from the washer up into the dryer. Unstacked it was.

With our stairs in place and the upstairs more or less liveable, the Husband turned his attention to the laundry closet. He quickly ran into a problem.

Originally, when he created the hole in the ceiling for the stairs, he made it with the washer and dryer in mind. Unfortunately, he forgot to calculate in the width of the wall. There was no way the washer and dryer would fit in a closet made under these stairs. We considered our options. A bump out maybe? Could we somehow made it look purposeful and not like a mistake?

But wait, I thought, looking at the washer and dryer critically for a moment. Are they as wide as they are deep? What if we turned them?

The new configuration saved our butts completely. We turned the washer and dryer to face each other, creating a walk-in laundry closet. Totally different than the original plan, but it's possible that I love it even more. The wall went up on the weekend, and it's amazing the difference it makes in our space.

The house is still a mess of leftover bits of construction and paint splotches for dramatic wall ideas we're considering, but maybe it's coming together. Some paint, some trim; we're getting there.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Off My Needles: Baby Booties

I have a new favourite yarn. It's soft, and slips through fingers with just the right amount of texture. And the colours. Oh! The colours. If I could never use any other kind of yarn, I would be happy.

My wallet, however, would not be.

The yarn is Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label. I picked some up at the Purple Purl - my favourite local yarn store - to make a gift for a cousin expecting her first baby in just a little over a month. It was a joy, an absolute joy to work with. I chose a free pattern from Bernat for the booties and added a little baby hat from this pattern to the gift in a bit of a rush a couple days before the shower. (No photos of it though... like I said, it was a last minute knit.)

Perhaps another pair of these will come off my needles in a month or so - I do have a little yarn left over, after all. Somehow, I find it easier to knit little things for other people's expected little ones than my own. Maybe because it's easier to think on as I knit a little one that someone else will be responsible for. Maybe it's a symptom of my own insecurity and niggling fear about bringing our little one home.

Perhaps, though, another skein of this yarn might inspire me towards something greater, a little baby sweater perhaps, or a hat and booty set to keep, rather than give away. Perhaps another skein of yarn might go a long way towards helping me get ready for this baby.

Two and a half more months. It's coming both too soon and not too soon enough.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On boys and girls

I am terrified of raising a boy.

Boys pee fountains.

Boys are expected to run and play. Boys are supposed to be active and noisy. They're expected to wrestle, fall, take risks, hurt themselves. They're expected to make messes, to build and destroy.

Boys are expected to be good at math. They aren't supposed to like to read. There's something wrong with a boy who likes to dance, or draw, or write, or sing. They're supposed to run. They're supposed to become big and strong.

Boys are supposed to fight. Boys are supposed to stand up for themselves alone and take the punches life gives them without emotion or tears. Boys are supposed to be strong and distant, but if they're not, angry is better than cheerful.

I am terrified of raising a girl.

Girls should wear pink.

Girls should practice motherhood early, by playing with dolls and little fake kitchens. They are always cute, never smart. They must go on their first diet the day after their 10th birthday.

Girls are expected to be caring and nurturing. It's ok if they like to read, but preferably, they should only read books that are for girls. They can be good at sports, but only if they're not too competitive. They should never be faster or stronger than the boys.

Girls should be thin. Ribs are good. Long legs and thigh gaps are better than fat ankles and round knees. Girls' arms don't need muscle. Girls should be physically weak and needy. Girls should care about their appearance above all else.

Girls should always be cheerful. Never angry. Angry is not feminine.

Boys are supposed to grow up into some sick, twisted version of manhood.

Girls are supposed to grow up into some sick, twisted version of womanhood. 

I want my children to grow up confident. I want them to know who they are. I want them to be able to resist the way the world wants them to be. I want my boys to be able to play with fake kitchens and lego indiscriminately. I want my girls to have tea parties during the afternoon and play hockey in the evening. I want my children to devour books and discover new worlds in stories. 

I want my children to feel united in this world, like they belong regardless of the sex organs between their legs or the gender in their heads. I want them to feel loved and safe and valued. I want them to grow up to be themselves. 

I am terrified of raising a child. 

For many years, I will hold my baby's life in my hands. I will be the one molding my baby's character, doing my best to pave the way for a future full of happiness and joy. But I know the day will come too soon when other influences and experiences will begin to have an impact on that young life. Am I capable of teaching him or her to be herself, himself, despite society's constant sorting, valuing, degrading? Am I capable of raising a child into a strong adult who can stand against the pull of a culture that can be so misguided and dangerous?

I'm not afraid of labour. I'm not afraid of those first few weeks, learning all about my new baby. I'm not afraid of learning to change diapers, or colic, or breastfeeding, or long nights of a mysteriously crying baby. I'm not afraid of the sacrifices I will make for that beautiful life.

I am afraid of the world into which I am bringing that beautiful life.

(I wrote this post weeks ago. I've been sitting on it, a little nervous that it doesn't quite articulate my thoughts perfectly. Baby-brain is a real thing; whenever I sit down to write something, I've felt fuzzy and slow, like my creativity and my technical ability to string words together have misaligned themselves. Today, I'll admit I can't aim for perfection in this; it's time to post.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Life in the Midst of Winter


    We went to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in the middle of February with my family. It was incredible.


    I turned 27. It was exhausting.


    Baby is 26 weeks along. Kicking happily, especially after mommy's morning cup of coffee.


    I'm making a pair of socks.


    Because I've been knitting lots, I haven't been reading, hardly at all. I've been reading the same book since January.


    Kingsley says hi.


    We've made very little progress on the attic. But, really, what did we expect? Moving in always means slowing down, and since our pace wasn't exactly lightening fast to begin with... No doubt we'll remain at this almost done stage for a good long while.


    Is winter over yet?

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    This Dusty Bookshelf: Wake by Anna Hope

    This is a first for me guys. Today, I'm participating in a blog tour! Essentially, that just means that there are 5 of us bloggers talking about one book this week. And this book? It's a good one to be talking about. Check out what they have to say about this book too!

    by Anna Hope

    Evelyn. Sister. Fiancee.

    Ava. Mother. Wife.

    Hettie. Sister. Lover.

    Wake is the story of these three women as they adjust to a new reality in the days leading up to Armistice Day. In one way or another, these women are struggling to come to terms with the brokenness of the men in their lives and the effect it has had on their relationships.

    Hope frames this story with a definition:

    Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath.

    Each one applies. Each definition adds another layer to the story. Each deepens the reader's understanding of the affect of World War I on Britain, of the men who fought, and of the women to whom they returned home. 

    I loved this novel. Hope uses simple language, but strings the words together beautifully to create very thoughtful imagery and a lively view of post-war Britain. Interspersed with the story of her three main characters, Hope tells the story of the Unknown Warrior, beautifully and delicately honouring the memorial that meant so much to a country still reeling in the wake of war.

    But the thing I loved the most was the way she used the relationship between men and women to tell the story. Sure, there's plot, but the story doesn't work without these relationships. Within each of these relationships - mother, sister, lover - Hope weaves her chosen theme: reawakening to love, honouring those relationships lost, and learning to live with the consequences of those relationships, broken as they may be. 

    I feel like I haven't read many novels set during or around World War I. World War II seems to grab the imagination far more readily than the war that caused it to begin with. But this one gave me an appreciation for that time period, for the sacrifices made by whole countries, for the devastation war left behind.

    Definitely pick this one up. 

    Disclosure: Randomhouse of Canada sent me a copy of this book for review purposes. These thoughts are all my own.