garlicky garlic baked chicken

Jeanne here.

The Cowboy (aka my husband) has been working in Canada for a few weeks, and the littles and I were finally able to make the drive to meet up with him just a few days ago at his sublet apartment in Vancouver, BC.

A word about Vancouver: holy COW is it expensive! But that’s not news. It was reported last week to be the most expensive North American city for living. And I believe it. $11 to park in public parking lots. $7 for one package of wipes because I accidentally left our wipes at the apartment and really needed them but didn’t have an extra 30 minutes to drive home to get them. $40 for lunch for one adult and two toddlers at a pizza joint near the Cowboy’s office. Crazy.

And we’re deep in the heart of downtown. Skyscrapers. Asphalt Jungle. Coffee shops on every corner. Hot dog carts and soft pretzels on every other. Rear Window living as no one closes their shades on the 33rd floor of a high-rise. Aquariums. Art galleries. Science World. Museums. And it never gets dark. The lights from all the buildings keep the rooms lit almost to dusk even at 2 am.

I’m amazed at how amazed I am.

I mean, I lived in Los Angeles for 16 years. And before that, I lived in Washington, DC. I’ve worked on movies in San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit and Albuquerque, and spent a lot of time in New York and London, so it’s not like I’ve never experienced city living. I’ve only been in Montana for 4 years. Well. Almost 4 years. It’ll be 4 years in June. But I’ve come to really like seeing stars at night. And not hearing the constant hum of cars. And sirens. I guess I’ve really done it. I’ve gone Montana.

I could wax-nostalgic for hours but what I really wanted to say is that we are here for two weeks and I don’t want to eat out for every meal. I also don’t want to stock a second kitchen like ours at home so I’ve been making simple foods and it turns out that the kids and the Cowboy are pretty happy about it.

A few nights ago, for example, I made this:

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Looks a little boring, right? Baked chicken and a salad.

But I’ll tell you something: It’s five ingredients. 20 minutes. And it’s flavorful and made for four happy eaters. So happy, in fact, that I made it again a few nights later.

Garlicky Garlic Baked Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbls sesame oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic (rough chopped)
  • 3 Tbls grade B maple syrup
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts. Patting the chicken dry seems to help ensure moist chicken. One day I’ll figure out the science of it. But in the meantime, I highly recommend patting it dry. Set in a non-reactive roasting pan and season the chicken with salt and pepper. (We use glass or ceramic. I’m happy to say that the owner of this apartment left one glass baking dish.)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and sauté until translucent. Remove from the heat and add the maple syrup. Pour the mixture evenly over the chicken. I lift each chicken breast to let the mixture get under the meat as well.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the maple syrup gets all frothy and the liquid from the chicken runs clear.

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Remove from the oven. Let stand for 2-3 minutes while you plate your side dish (we had a mixed green salad with pink lady apples and a balsamic honey mustard dressing). Slice and serve.

What do you feed your family when you’re on an extended trip that’s not really a vacation?

pinecone crafting for the craftless

Someone accused flattered me once and called me “crafty.”

She apparently was looking into my heart, and not at the evidence.

But I try, gosh darnit. I try.

We’ve been at my Mom’s in the Coachella Valley this past week and I’ve been looking for fun things to do with the kids during the 90 degree days that won’t leave my cold-loving Montana brood bored and stuck in air conditioning for too long. (The pool’s been off-limits this week as they clean it, turn the heat on and prep it for the “high season,” which in the desert is end of October through March).

We’ve had bubble blowing contests.

Races around the trees in the field behind the house.

We’ve gone sidewalk chalk crazy on the patio.

Had ballon tosses.

But our favorite thing to do is go on nature walks to the duck pond just a stone’s throw from Grammy’s backyard … our best adventure to date.

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(Although today we head to the Living Desert Zoo and are hoping to see the zookeepers feed giraffes so … it may not stay in the lead for long).

On one of those walks, the kids “discovered” pinecones different from the ones at home. These are full and round and open. They are just gorgeous. (The ones at home are gorgeous, too. But they stay pretty closed with our cool cool nights.) Our quest undoubtedly became a game and a race to see who could pick up the most pinecones. Although we piled them into one pile, so no one was the winner. 🙂

But what to do with a stroller full of pinecones?

Why … make Christmas ornaments, of course.

I mean, Costco is already selling ribbon, O’Mamas is already doing a toy giveaway, it only makes sense to make ornaments in October, doesn’t it?

So after a run to the local pharmacy to get glitter and glue, here’s what’s left of our beautiful pinecones.

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Yeah …

We’re not as crafty as we dream.

But it was fun.

And after two days we’re still finding glitter in our hair.

xo,
Jeanne

a perfectly portable homemade chia “pod”

After a nearly two-week technology vacation, it’s Jeanne here.

I’m going to admit that it’s weird to be back after almost 14 days mostly unplugged.  The littles and I were on a 3,000+ mile road trip to visit the Cowboy, my mom and stepdad, my sisters, a new baby cousin, and some very dear friends.

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The real reason we made the trip:  it was take the kids to work day (not really) … but they loved sitting at Dad’s very fastidious desk (his desk at home is a little less neat :))

To describe it as “whirlwind” is sort of putting it mildly.  We trekked from Montana to Utah to Los Angeles to Palm Springs to north of San Diego to southern San Diego to LA to Palm Springs to Utah to Montana … and we did it in just under 2 weeks.

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I am so thankful our littles like to travel … this was taken on the very last leg of our trip in a hotel room in Salt Lake City. It was a very happy dance.

And honestly, it wasn’t a totally conscious decision to be offline.

We were just in the car so much … and after reading about Werner Herzog’s new 35 minute “short film” From One Second to the Next about the dangers of texting and driving I had made a commitment not to text or talk while driving.  Mind you, I have NOT seen the film.  I just read about it and it changed my life.  I don’t think I have the courage to actually watch it.  But I agree with the message … whatever it is you have to say?  It can wait.  But I digress.

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of our trip because not everyone wants to be invited over to watch a home-movie (but if you invite me over to watch yours, I will do so happily :))

Plus … there’s a good chance the real reason you’re here today is this:

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My San Diego sister introduced me to these little nuggets of goodness, which she found at Sprouts.

It has four organic ingredients:  Coconut Milk, Bananas, Blueberries, Chia Seeds.

I love how good for you they are [Chia seeds have been shown to stabilize blood sugar, increase brain power.  They are 20 percent protein.  Jam-packed with digestible fiber, calcium and antioxidants.  They have strontium (which helps assimilate protein) and can help with weightloss by boosting metabolism and promoting lean muscle.  There’s evidence that these tiny little nutty-tasting seeds can help reduce blood pressure and encourage heart health.  They’ve also been shown to aid in detoxification and elimination. And I haven’t even mentioned how good for you Coconut Milk is.]

I love the portability (although I wish it weren’t in plastic with two plastic covers and a plastic spoon).  It’s a great texture (it’s kind of yogurty … not slimy like I thought it could be because sometimes that happens when you add chia seeds to liquid).  And it doesn’t have the “it will go bad by lunch if it’s not refrigerated” that threatens dairy products.

I tried the blueberry.

I was uber ready for it to be delicious.

🙁

It was okay.

Actually, it was sort of bland.  Like the bananas weren’t ripe enough.  Or maybe it was missing just a hint of sweet.

But I love the idea of a Chia Pod.

So I have been obsessed with making my own version of this since Saturday … waiting (not so patiently) to get home, get to the store and whip out the Vita-Mix.  (Plus, it gives me an excuse to use all those dang jelly jars that have been cluttering our cupboards.)

I started simply, with four ingredients …

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I used peaches instead of blueberries because when we were in SoCal we stopped at a local farmers’ market and bought way too many to eat on a drive home and I didn’t want them to go bad and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (How’s that for a run-on sentence?)

But my first attempt had the same problem as the store bought Chia Pod.

Tasteless.

So here’s what I did:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 very ripe peaches (pitted and cut into large chunks … it was about a cup and a half to two cups of chopped peaches, but it could have been strawberries or blueberries or mango or a blend of any berries or fruit that trips your trigger)
  • 2 ripe bananas (I will likely reduce this to one banana next time because the taste is pretty heavy on the banana)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup of chia seeds (the Chia Pod uses white chia.  I only had black chia on hand and while it doesn’t look as “pretty” as the store bought version, it still tastes pretty much the same and packs the same amount of awesomeness)
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey (or use grade B maple syrup or raw sugar or agave if you want to make this a vegan treat)
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender and pulse until well-combined.  Divide into individual serving cups and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to “set.”

And …

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I know they’re not as cute as the one’s my Sis got at Sprout’s (or it might have been Trader Joe’s). I’ll have to work on the packaging when I make a strawberry version next.

I love them.

I had one for dessert last night.

Our little guy had one for a snack … and his big sister ate half of it.

And there are still six in the fridge to pack and go anywhere anytime (breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert).

So life is good.

Except for maybe what I found in the freezer after being gone for two weeks.

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But I don’t want to leave you with this image that’s haunting my brain … so here’s one of our kids after going to a block party with their cousins …

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It may not be helping you much, but it definitely takes my mind off my task for the day 🙂

 Find us also at:
Pinworthy Projects @ The Domestic Superhero
& Pennywise Platters @ The Nourishing Gourmet

food for thought this friday

My friend Jeannine is an Indian. A Lakota Indian. An incredible artist with an amazing spirit who grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. She’s been friends with my Cowboy for … I don’t know … ever?

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(I met her a few years ago when she was passing through Bozeman and for me it was an immediate kinship and adoration.)

And this week, my parents had planned their vacation to Mount Rushmore, we decided to join them, and it gave us an excuse to spend some time with the beautiful Jeannine.

And I feel blessed.

Blessed for the gift of coincidence that brought our travels so close that we would have had to look for an excuse NOT to spend time together.

Blessed for the gift of time that allowed my Cowboy to reunite with such a dear friend.

And blessed that our littles (and I) got the experience of her spirit and the gift of hearing stories passed down through the ages …

Like the story she shared from her grandfather about twigs from the cottonwood poplar tree.

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Jeannine told us that if we were to find a cottonwood poplar twig on the ground, we should take a moment to remember the simple truth of the beauty found inside each cottonwood poplar twig.

Because inside every cottonwood poplar twig is a present from The Creator.

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And if God has the patience and time to put a star inside every cottonwood poplar twig … just imagine what gifts he’s put in each one of us.

Happy Friday …

xo,

Jeanne

that time we went camping and saw three bears …

Abby and her family were hoping to come camping with us last weekend, but it didn’t work out this time … which is probably for the best … because Abby’s got a thing about bears.

As in …

I think she’s kinda freaked out by them.

Which makes sense … because bears can be dangerous.

And it’s important when camping (especially in Montana, and particularly in places that are known as “bear country”) to be “bear aware.”

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Carry bear spray (careful to keep it in a place that is NOT accessible to your toddlers and young children).

Know how to store your food and trash (NOT in canvas tents or trailers).

Be on the lookout for evidence of bears (paw prints, scat, etc.)

And be prepared to act (to run in the other direction if you are far enough away or to drop to the ground and “play dead” if you are not).

JW

So I get it.

And I especially got it this weekend when, while camping in the Gallatin National Forest with the Cowboy and our Littles, we found an elk carcass on the outskirts of our campsite.

fascinating dogs

And then we found a bear track about 500 yards up river (crossing to the opposite side).

bear paw print

We woke up one morning to this sight across the river.

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Followed just moments later by this one.

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And just a few short hours later, we found this rare white baby bear had invaded our camp.

bear in the campsite

Be safe out there …

xo,

Jeanne

glorious glamping on the longest day of the year

Jeanne here.

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. The official start of summer. The longest day of the year. And in southwest Montana that means the sun won’t set until 9:17 pm. It’ll be light until about 10. And we’ll have another night struggling with the kiddos to “please go to bed!”

But I won’t be fighting this time …not that we fight ;). Because this time, we’ll be glamping (glamping, not camping, because I can’t think of it as roughing it when we sleep in a trailer on a mattress nicer than the one in our bedroom in the Rockies.

Cooking over an open fire.

Taking trail rides.

Going on nature walks (our little girl decorated a box so she can collect “rocks and flowers and sticks and ants and bugs!!!”) The plan is to collect some cool stuff and then come home and try to figure out what it all is. Her idea. Awesome.

So today I’m reflecting on Solstice. Because I love summer. I love camping. I love spending time outside.

But besides marking the first day of summer, Solstice means the days will start getting shorter. Fast. We are far enough north that our days will shrink a few minutes at a time.

It means that our garden’s days are numbered and the zucchini have so much growing left to do!

So I’m just going to try to live in this moment today… the second longest day of the year.

Checking out the new tent to make sure it’s waterproof.

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Cooking (short ribs, brownies, sourdough pancake batter …).

Getting the horses loaded and heading out of town.

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Happy Summer, everyone!

xo,
J

saving money on the road … it’s possible to eat well and save money when you’re staying in a hotel

Hi.   Jeanne here.  From a Vegas hotel room overlooking the historic Strip …

I mentioned yesterday that we’re at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas this week.

We left home on Tuesday.  Got here on Wednesday afternoon.  And it’s been non-stop since we arrived.  Running from event to event.  Lots of walking.  Lots of site-seeing.  Lots of eating out.  Basically, we’re running on sensory overload these days.

obviously, this little Cowgirl takes her rodeo VERY seriously
obviously, this little Cowgirl takes her rodeo VERY seriously

And we’ve still got four days before we hit the road home.

You probably know that I stress out a little about food. And just thinking about all those restaurant meals … Not knowing where the food comes from.  Not having control over how its prepared.  Spending way too much money on food that we’re not sure the kids will eat.  Um … yeah … I can feel the cortisol coursing through my veins.

Think about it: breakfast out (for three plus a baby) costs on average about $30/meal … at a modestly priced diner.  Which, over the course of 8 days would run you at least $240.

Plus snacks (A soft pretzel at the rodeo is $3.  A bag of popcorn is also $3.  A muffin at Starbucks can run you $3.95) … So let’s assume that everyone gets one or two snacks a day … about $20/day in snacks, for 8 days … add $160.

That’s $400 … just for snacks and breakfast.

So we made a simple decision that has turned into about $300 worth of savings for this adventure … and gone a long way to ensuring that the we are all eating at least one good and good for you meal a day, plus snacks.

You see, we arrived on Wednesday afternoon.  And as the littles and I settled into the hotel, the Cowboy went on a trip to Whole Foods.  He bought $95 worth of groceries

  • six 6 oz containers of brown cow cream on top yogurt (on sale for $.47/container)
  • 2 nice loaves of sourdough bread from the bakery ($2.69/each)
  • a 1 lb wedge of Uni Kaabo Robusto cheese ($16.99)
  • a half gallon of organic milk ($3.99)
  • a box of Arrowhead Mills organic whole grain cereal ($4.99)
  • some roast beef and turkey from the deli (I forgot to look at label price before it got thrown away … must have been around $6 or $7, I think),
  • six organic apples ($2.69/lb)
  • a 1 lb container of pre-washed and cut carrots & broccoli ($4.99)
  • a box of 18 assorted Larabars ($36.00) – NOTE: this same assorted box is available at Costco for about $14.99 …we don’t usually pay retail for Larabars, but sometimes … you gotta do, what you gotta do.
  • a pint of fresh guacamole ($6.99)
  • and a bag of fresh made tortilla chips from the deli ($4.27)

And that’s it.  About $95 worth of groceries.

Obviously, he wasn’t price-shopping.  And he wasn’t cutting corners.  These are full-priced (sometimes over-priced) items.  And every one is delicious … fairly nutritious … and every one is a treat we don’t often get at home (so we still feel like we’re on vacation).  But this is breakfast and snacks for four people (sandwiches, cereals, yogurts for breakfast … apples and larabars make great portable snacks and tortilla chips for munching while we’re in between events at the hotel room), for 8 days, without having to succumb to Denny’s or IHOP or some unnamed diner where the kids will eat four bites and be hungry half an hour later.

I know they’ll have at least something in their bellies that’s good and good for them.  And we’re saving more than $300  … $300 that could be spent on something a little more interesting than not-so-nourishing food …like maybe a downpayment on a greenhouse?

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a gal can dream, can’t she? (this is custom greenhouse by the folks at Frontier Rustic Designs, in Norris, MT)

Hmmmm … I’m going to have ask the Cowboy about that!