Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Quickie: Shredded Chicken in Seconds

Sometimes life is to busy to do a large scale project. Welcome to Wednesday Quickies. These are simple projects with items you probably already have, and are meant to help you save time, money and/or your patience.

Shredded Chicken in Seconds

Need some shredded chicken for tacos, or how about pulled chicken sandwiches for dinner. If you have two chicken breasts that are baked already, you are ready to go. If they are raw still, pop them in the oven with whatever spices your family enjoys, then cool them for about half an hour after cooked through. (It is faster if you have leftovers, or else bake the chicken the night before to save you some dinner prep time.)

Take your handi-dandi stand mixer, use the flat beater to do all your work. Once the flat beater is firmly in place, put two cold chicken breasts into the bowl. Turn on the mixer and be amazed. It will take about 30 seconds on speed 6 to shred all the chicken. I did add a little salsa to my bowl for moisture and flavor, but it did also hit me in the face while mixing it, so be careful!

Once your chicken is shredded, you can then heat it up.

Just think of the possibilities: chicken tacos, chicken lasagna, BBQ chicken sandwiches, stir fry, fried rice, chicken salad and even tons of soups. There are no limits to this simple trick. I am also going to try it with a beef roast or pork roast. The concept should be the same. I will let you know how it goes.

Warning: I have only done one or two chicken breast at a time to avoid over heating the mixer. Also make sure there are NO BONES in your chicken. You know what those beaters do to spoons.

Here is the video to show you how easy it is:  

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Monday, August 4, 2014

July Garden Update

Well July is over and I know you are all wondering how is the organic garden going?

I have learned somethings, and will be planting a little differently next year. But mostly it is really going great!

The lettuce has been out biggest producer. We have been eating lettuce with almost every single meal for most of the summer. The lettuce is slowing down now, and I am thinking I need to order more seeds so that I can get a fall harvest also.

The tomatoes were planted inside from seed a little later than they probably should have been started. Next year I will be planting them earlier to start producing a little earlier. I have tons of beautiful green tomatoes right now. Can't hardly wait for them to start ripening.

Peppers are slow...the organic seeds I purchased online are producing slowly. The organic seeds I bought at the hardware store are doing nothing but staring at me everyday. Will be starting them indoors earlier next year, and also not purchasing any from the hardware store.

Cucumbers are flowered and a few are starting to show themselves. By the amount of flowers I saw, it should be a bumper crop, but we will see. I better get a bunch, because the dill is going crazy!

Herbs are doing great. Cilantro is delicious, basil has been used for pesto, chives are coming along slowly, but I still eat them as I walk by. The dill is huge and probably needed a bigger space, and the onions are sparse but growing still. The kale is looking great and I am hoping to try kale chips here pretty soon.

So what have I learned so far. I will dedicate one whole bed to cucumbers next year. They are taking over their bed and trying to keep them out of the carrots is getting harder each day. Tomatoes are wonderful and I just need to seed start them earlier. Herbs are instant gratification. The little guy likes to take his friends to the garden and let them try eating each herb. Cilantro is still my favorite herb, I just need the tomatoes and onions to start producing so I can make my favorite pico de gallo. I will also probably change up how I am planting the lettuce next year. I have it in a container which is great to keep the rabbits away, but I would prefer it in a long, skinny container instead.

How is your garden doing this year?

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Outdoor Movie Screen {in your Own Backyard!}

Do you remember going to the drive-in movie theaters as a kid? I remember watching the original Freaky Friday and King Kong as a kid. They were always fun. Piling into the station wagon in your pj's. Bringing a cooler of drinks and snacks along and heading to the drive-in before it was too dark out.

Sadly, Minnesota is down to just 6 drove-in's in the whole state. In it's hay day, we had almost 90. So what is a family to do to get this same feel? How about creating your own outdoor movie experience.

We have done outdoor movies before, showing the movie on the side of the house. It worked, but with the siding, it is not the most ideal picture. You can always tie up a huge white sheet, but we have never gone that way either. You can also spend hundreds on a cool blow up screen that packs away when not in use, but who seriously has money for that? Why not build your own.

I was fortunate enough to grab a pull down screen from a classroom at work that they were throwing away. It is a simple pull down screen, no bells or whistles. Most schools are now going to "Smart Boards" and are getting rid if their pull down screens, ask around, your neighborhood schools may have one for free too. Or, check your local colleges and Universities to see if they have a store that sells off their old equipment. They may have some screens too!

So we started off measuring the screen, 8 feet long and 4 1/2 inches across the base. I wanted a screen that can stay outside all year long to use at a minutes notice. Hubby and I came up with the idea of attaching house gutters upside down over the screen to protect it from snow and rain. We went to the home improvement store with measurements in hand to see if a gutter would fit. We found a 10 foot section and it was 5 inches across the base. That will totally work!

So $4.99 for the gutter, $1.31 X 2 for end caps, screen = free, screws - already have. Total project = $7.61 plus tax.

The kids and I sat in chairs in the yard from all the different vantage points that you would ever be watching the screen. We chose a spot lower than I wanted, but it also makes it easier to pull down and put away at the end of the night. Hubby started out by attaching the screen to the house with two screws that fit into the screen. As you can see in the picture, it is useable at this point, but not protected from the elements. If you are willing to put up and take down the screen (and store it) between movie showings, this is really the only step you need.

To make it safe to the elements, you will need to add a gutter. Hubby measured out the screw spacings of the screen on the gutter, and used a tin snips to cut out around the brackets. This makes it easy to just slip the gutter over the screen. I used E-6000 to glue the end caps into place, because we do not own (or need) a pop rivet gun. Once he slipped the gutter over the screen, he did add two more screws on each end to make sure it wasn't going anywhere.

And that's it! Seriously that is all there is to putting up an outdoor movie screen.

I did move the bird feeders, and am planning on replacing the pull string with a wood pole with a hook on it so that the string won't bang against the house in the wind. We are also planning a deck remodel (hopefully next summer) so the kids will have comfortable chairs rather than laying in the grass. When we build the deck, I am planning on a tower the perfect distance and height to set the LCD projector and DVD player on for future movies. Hubby is now also planning on outdoor speakers throughout the deck for surround sound with the movies.

Speaking of the LCD projectors. I am also fortunate enough to be able to borrow one from work for the night and bring it back. This might be the expensive part of this project if you don't have a projector. Look around, check Craigslist, you will find one eventually. Hubby does all the hook ups from the projector to the DVD player to the portable speaker we use. I don't understand that stuff, but I am sure there is a simple guide someplace  for the equipment that you have and how to hook it all up.  Suggestion, make sure you test your equipment earlier in the day so you aren't fiddling around with it at night when the mosquitoes are biting and the kids are getting restless to watch their movie.

Hope you are having a great summer, now go look for a screen!

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