Silver Lining

February 23, 2017

chicken with sun-dried tomato basil cream sauce

I had to fend off my husband to get three minutes alone with this plate of food and photograph it before Sam gobbled it up. Literally. That's how good this recipe is, you guys.

We first had this sun-dried tomato basil cream sauce a few years ago at my family's house in Alpine. It quickly became Sam's favorite, and whenever it was his birthday, he'd request that Krysti make it for him. I finally wised up and got the recipe from her. The rest is history, as they say. Sam requests it for every single birthday. And Father's Day. And Valentine's Day. And holiday of any kind. And every week when I'm making a grocery list and ask what he wants to eat. Last week we had it just because it was Monday.

In fact, if you've been over for dinner in the last year, chances are we've served you this dish. Or homemade Cafe Rio. We're currently on a homemade Cafe Rio kick.

I can't begin to explain how good this recipe is. First, I start with chicken tenderloins, coat them in crunchy Italian breadcrumbs, and bake them until the chicken falls apart in your mouth. Then, I top it with sun-dried tomato basil sauce. The sauce is easy to make and full of flavorful garlic, sweet basil, delicious cream, melted parmesan cheese, and pops of sun-dried tomatoes (which I don't usually like, but trust me, they are so good in this recipe). Last, I drizzle the sauce over the chicken, add some rice pilaf and whatever baked vegetable I'm in the mood for, et voila. Heaven in my mouth.

Here's the recipe. It was originally adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything, but I've changed it enough over the years that I claim it as my own. (In my apparently-not-humble-at-all opinion, I've managed to make it both easier and more delicious.)

You're welcome in advance.

SUN-DRIED TOMATO BASIL CREAM SAUCE
serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:
6 Tbs butter, divided
6 chicken tenderloins, thawed (or 3 large chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise)
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chicken broth (or 1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

THE CHICKEN: Preheat the oven to 375. Melt 3 Tbs butter in a bowl and put breadcrumbs in a second bowl. Dip chicken tenderloins in the butter and then coat with breadcrumbs. Place each coated chicken piece in a baking dish (I use an ungreased 11x7 baking dish).  Cook in oven for about an hour, or until crispy on edges and very tender in the middle.

THE SAUCE: Melt 3 Tbs butter on a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add crushed garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cream and sun-dried tomatoes; bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low. Add parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Heat through.

Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve with this rice pilaf and roasted broccoli or zucchini. And if some sauce accidentally gets on the rice pilaf, well, there's really nothing you can do except eat it (and rejoice in the excuse for added sauce).

Yummmmm. Sam just took the last of the leftovers to work today, which is a shame because looking at these pictures makes me wish I was having it again for dinner tonight.

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February 21, 2017

an afternoon at the train park


When our friends invited us to spend an afternoon with them at the train park last week, we jumped at the chance. Sam's in the middle of the job search for after graduation (I can't believe we're almost to the end of grad school!) and the hunt just might kill him. You guys, he is so stressed out, and feels so much pressure to find the perfect job. We really needed a few hours to just be together and have fun as a family.


We first became friends with the Cooks in college, and we LOVE that they are in the Phoenix area too. The total opposite side of the huge Phoenix metropolis, but hey. It was so fun to spend two hours catching up and chatting about babies and life. Well, mostly we wrangled my fussy pre-bedtime children, but you know, it's nice to wrangle children together while sneaking in snippets of conversation at the same time. :)


We went to the McCormick-Stillman train park in Scottsdale and it was so much fun. I still can't get over the entire building full of working model trains. There's also a fun merry-go-round. And Claire is still talking about the train ride we went on (only $2!). All in all, such a fun place to spend an afternoon (and it's practically deserted if you go on a weekday).



^^ Sometimes I forget how big cactuses/cacti really are. Then I see pictures of them that are easily 20 feet tall. It was almost to the top of that tree in the background.
After the train ride and model trail museum, we had a picnic dinner at the huge playground and picnic area right next to the train tracks. We played until the sun went down and the twins were thaaaat close to a total breakdown. Then we got to enjoy a nice drive home with sleepy silent babies in the back. Thanks again for the invitation, Ryan and Carly! It was such a fun afternoon.


February 17, 2017

favorite rhyming board books (that you won't get sick of)

Today I'm back to talk about children's books again! Specifically, rhyming board books for pre-readers.

Why are rhyming books so great for babies and toddlers? A few reasons. First of all, young children really respond to rhythm. They're more likely to be engaged, involved and interested when there's a strong rhythm. Secondly, rhymes are fantastic in developing phonological awareness and language structures (a.k.a. it helps kids understand that syllables make up words, and words make up the English language). Third, rhyming/ rhythmic books are great for memorization, an intermediary step to reading. All in all, they're fantastic. And fun too!

But don't some rhyming books just drive you crazy? If the rhythm isn't great, or if you can tell it's a forced rhyme, it's hard to keep reading. And it's a law of nature that your child will fall in love with the one board book you hate the most, and request it millions of times per day.

Confession: The rhyming book I can't stand is Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? I get that it's a great book. It has rhyme, it has rhythm, it teaches colors, it teaches animals... But something that that book makes my eye start to twitch just thinking about that darn purple cat and blue horse and goldfish.

The solution? Get some of these rhyming books now and save them for your child's next birthday / holiday / potty training reward. They're short, they're fun, and they won't make you lose your mind when you have to read them 10 times in one morning. And if you have Amazon Prime like me you can stock up now (these are all under $6 currently) and get them at your door in two days. Here are our favorites:

Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! by Sandra Boynton
I can't say how much I LOVE Sandra Boynton and her board books. If you pick only one rhyming board book author to have in your home, pick her. This book is fun and funny and teaches opposites through fun rhymes. Our other two rhyming favorites are Barnyard Dance and Pajama Time.

There's a Wocket in my Pocket by Dr Seuss

This one's on sale for only $3.50 right now. It's such a fun way to introduce rhyming with nonsense words. It's definitely a most-requested book at our house! (But did Dr Seuss have to pick a title that prompts so many inappropriate subtitle ideas? haha) We also love Mr Brown Can Moo. Can You?

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
This book has a fantastic rhythm and the rhymes never feel forced or manipulated the fit the structure of the book. And I die over toddlers trying to pronounce the title when they can't say their r's correctly ("Si-yee sa-yee"). Older children have fun looking closely to spot what's coming next.

RELATED: FAVORITE WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS FOR PRE-READERS

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden

This series is great for very young children because it's short, there are very few words, and the pictures and colors are eye-catching. Each page has a cut-out so you can guess what's next (shown is Peek a Moo with a cow on the next page). It's fun and engaging, and makes you wonder why you weren't the one who thought of the idea and is now making millions off this simple, easy and fun rhyming series. Love the mirror on the last page too.

5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

I almost left this one off the list because it's very repetitive and some may get sick of it. For me, the fun illustrations make up for the repetition. We had a play date last week at our house and both kids' moms said their children were obsessed with this book too. Also, it's one of the books my 2.5-year-old can read all by herself (meaning she has the whole thing memorized and will read it aloud to herself). Funny little last page too.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw

The rhyming structure and words are fairly brilliant in this fun one. This book is requested allllll day long at my house. Sheep Out to Eat is fun too, and I've heard the other ones in this series are good, but this is the only one we own and between the relentlessly good rhyming and the fun illustrations, it's already a classic.

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What are your favorite rhyming board books?
I'm always in the market for new recommendations!

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