Savory Parsnip Bake with Chicken

I put together another one of my concoctions in the kitchen that I’d like to share. I used chicken, but if you by chance have any turkey left from Thanksgiving, turkey would work just as well. We were visiting at other family members’ homes over the long Thanksgiving weekend, so we did not have a turkey at our house. If we did, I’m quite sure I’d still have turkey meat to work with – perhaps bagged up into meal-sized portions in the freezer.

Here’s the scoop on the parsnip and chicken bake:

Savory Parsnip Bake with Chicken

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 chicken breast (or approximately equivalent amount of turkey meat)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
4 cups sliced parsnips and/or carrots (I used nearly all parsnips, but threw in a few small carrots)
3 T flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 T butter, melted
2/3 cup oyster crackers or saltines, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
*Steam parsnips/carrots for 5 to 10 minutes, until starting to get tender. You don’t want them to get very soft.
*Meanwhile, coat skillet with olive oil. Cut chicken breast into 1 inch pieces and cook over medium high heat. (If you are using leftover turkey or leftover chicken, just cup up your meat into small pieces.)
*Remove parsnips/carrots from heat. Remove chicken from skillet.
*In same skillet, saute the onions and mushroom until tender. Add flour. Stir constantly. (Add olive oil if the pan has become too dry. Mine didn’t.)
*Gradually add the milk, continuing to stir constantly. Continue heating and stirring until sauce thickens.
*Fold in the shredded cheddar. It will melt into the sauce. Add the parsnips/carrots and chicken to the pan and mix all ingredients.
*Spread mixture into a baking dish.
*Combine melted butter and cracker crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the baking dish.
*Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese sauce is bubbling and the topping looks golden.
*Season with salt and pepper if desired.
*Enjoy!

Here it is, pre-bake.

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Like I said, when I made this dish, it had nothing to do with leftovers, but I could easily imagine it as a great way to use up some extra turkey or chicken you might have on hand. On those occasions that I roast a whole chicken, I am looking for several ways to use up the chicken throughout the week. This recipe will be added to my list!

Oh, and while I’m at it, I can update on my 30 Day Shred goal for November. It turned out to be my 27 Day Shred for the month of November. I did not do it while I was visiting at other people’s homes over Thanksgiving. While I suppose I could have asked for use of the TV/DVD player for my workouts, I really didn’t care to interrupt other people’s agendas. And I REALLY didn’t want to have an audience while family members waited for me to finish. To be quite honest, that is the bigger reason for me. I always tell my husband that he is welcome to join me if he is DOING the workout, but I don’t want him hanging around watching me. It’s bad enough that my kids like to watch me (and point out when I am “wiggling my butt” and such things – they’re called squats, kiddos).

So that’s that. What should I do for December? I better get thinking on that. I have a running plan, but I don’t have anything else in particular in mind.

I hope you’ve had a lovely November and a wonderful Thanksgiving. Christmas will be here before we know it!

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! Things continue to be busy around here, but typically a good kind of busy. 🙂 I wanted to take a few minutes to express my gratitude for the many blessings in my life, big and small.

* This wonderful world we live in.
* Life! I’m happy to be here.
* Health.
* My husband, who is my primary companion in this journey of life.
* Our children.
* Extended family.
* Friends.
* Sunny days.
* Shelter.
* A car to take me where I want to go, including to visit family for Thanksgiving!
* Books.
* Flowers.
* Lakes.
* Food.
* Good neighbors.
* My church.
* Music.
* My job.
* Being able to homeschool, which has been such a blessing!

This is also by no means a complete list and is not necessarily in order. Just some of the many things that I am thankful for.

I will be singing at church tonight, and enjoying some pie with our church family, then we will be making the rounds to visit my husband’s family and my family over the rest of the holiday weekend. I’m excited to see everyone!

I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you haven’t, take a moment to count your blessings. Even when things aren’t perfect (and really, when are they?), we can usually find things to be thankful for if we just take the time to look.

~Melissa

And off I go to peel carrots and sweet potatoes!!

Birthday Reflections

Good morning! It’s my birthday today, and that often leads me to do some reflecting. Today I am 38. I’m sure there are some young whippersnappers who are thinking that’s quite old. (Sorry, I can’t always resist the temptation to use corny words like whippersnapper. They amuse me.) Twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, I would have agreed. The good news is that I don’t feel old. I just feel like me.

I find myself teetering on the brink of my forties. How I got this age so quickly is a mystery to me, but here I am.

I was 34 1/2 when I started running. (I have young children. I cannot forget the significance of the 1/2.) A year or so into this new hobby, I decided that I wanted to be in better shape at 40 than I had been at 30. This seemed a possible goal. It’s not that I was heavy at age 30 or obviously in poor health or anything like that. You see, when I was 30, I had a 1 year old and was devoted to “losing the baby weight.” My employer also had a fitness challenge going on at that time. As a result of those efforts, I was slimmer at 30 than I had been before getting pregnant. So, it’s not that I intend to be slimmer at 40 than I was at 30. I don’t think that would be a realistic or healthy goal.

At any rate, I don’t think being slim = being healthy or fit. I actually weigh a few pounds more right now than I did at age 30, so getting back to where I was could be something to shoot for, but I believe I am in better shape in other ways than I was at that time. My cardiovascular endurance has improved about a million times over since then. I couldn’t have run around the block before stopping to catch my breath. While I’m no speedy runner now, the fact is that I can run much farther than around the block. I have run two half marathons now and I couldn’t tell you how many 5K’s. It’s something that I enjoy and makes me feel better. In that regard, I am in better shape at the ripe old age of 38 than I was 8 years ago. I have no plans of stopping anytime soon!

After a few years of running, it occurred to me that I’d like to be stronger in other ways too. Strength training is really not my thing, so it’s not where you’ll see me devoting the most time, but I am making an effort to include more strength training in my life. I’ve given myself monthly pushup challenges, for example, and I’m doing 30 Day Shred this month. Like I said, it’s not really my thing, but I’m trying.

Another huge change since age 30 is the much greater amount of fresh fruits and veggies that I eat. Since joining the CSA in 2009, I eat a wide variety of organic produce and have really expanded my food horizons. Doing this also encouraged me to think more about other food choices, and I have cut way back on junk over the last few years. (During high school, my lunch was often a can of Coke. That’s all. No food whatsoever. Can you imagine? Crystal clear example of slim does not equal healthy. I was very thin at that time, but I sure wasn’t taking good care of myself.)

As you can see, if I keep up these positive changes that I’ve already made (and maybe even do better), I think it’s a definite possibility that I’ll be in better shape at 40 than 30. Just a little something that crossed my mind as I see 40 approaching ever more rapidly.

Another thing to consider on my birthday is how very blessed I am. Yesterday I had an early birthday wish on facebook that wished me a day with many blessings. It’s a nice wish. But I have to say, even if my day is just an ordinary day, it will be a day with many blessings. I have always had a roof over my head. I have always had food to eat. I have always had clothing to keep me warm. I been relatively healthy, and when I haven’t been healthy, I have received the medical care necessary to recover. I have a family to love. I have a wonderful husband and two great kids. I have meaningful work. I have the opportunity to find motivation, information and community from/with people not only here in my geographic area, but around the country and beyond. And on and on. Indeed, my birthday (and everyday) is filled with blessings.

Thanks for listening. 🙂 I hope that you also have a day filled with blessings.

What’s Up?

Hi there. What’s up world? I hope life is treating you well. Things have been as busy as ever for me. I spend the bulk of my day doing schoolwork with my kiddos. I’ve got projects galore at work right now, as well. That’s good, right? I think so. I’m fortunate to not only have a job (especially in this rough economy), but to have a job that is flexible enough to allow me to be home with my children and still contribute to my formerly full-time workplace.

I picked up our CSA boxes yesterday. It was a vegetable AND fruit day, so my refrigerator, hanging baskets and counters are FULL. We’ve got squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges and greens in mass quantities. Oh, onions too. We have a three tiered hanging basket full of onions and garlic. It’s a good thing I like cooking with them! We got a new item in our fruit share this week. I hear all the time how wonderful pomegranates are for us, but I never buy them. Why not? Because I’m really not sure what to do with them. Now that I have received several in my CSA box, it’s time for me to take the plunge and finally figure it out. We haven’t experienced as many new foods in the fruit share as we did in the vegetable share, but there have been a few. Pomegranates, persimmon and figs come to mind. It’s still fun trying new things, but I must admit, I don’t like all of them. I found out that I don’t care for figs (though I like Fig Newtons – go figure), and I’ve found that a cheese share goes largely wasted on me. In my defense, I did decide to sign up for the cheese share before I discovered that dairy bothers my stomach. Now that I’ve figured that out, I’m not eating all that much cheese. (And I’m a little picky about the cheese. Shh. Don’t tell. I don’t like to think of myself as a picky eater. Thankfully, my husband is not picky about cheese and enjoys all of them.)

In fitness news, I started the 30 Day Shred on November 1st. My goal is to do it everyday of November. With Thanksgiving coming up, we’ll see how that goes. I’m not sure when/if/how long we might be away from home, so that might throw me for a loop. I’m also keeping up with a minimal running schedule. I’m dreaming and scheming of races for next year. I plan to put the focus more on running starting in December or January (depending on exactly what training plan I will be doing).

With Halloween just a few days past, I have to admit, I am proud of myself. I ate a few pieces of candy on Halloween, but I haven’t had any since. I usually gobble up any leftover candy that we have, and then I dip into my kids’ candy. I don’t think it’s a big deal to eat a little candy here and there, but I have overindulged in the past. If I think about it, I would rather have a quality dessert now and then than eat Halloween candy. My husband’s homemade pumpkin pie is WAY better than Halloween candy! And I would like to eat nourishing foods for the most part, not fill up on a lot of sweets. So there you have it, my choice to stay out of the candy.

Hasta luego! (Have I mentioned that I’m helping my daughter practice Spanish?)

P.S. If you have any tips for me on how to eat the pomegranates, I welcome your tips!