Crock pot chicken thighs

I'll admit: until recently, I haven't exactly been a good wife. Not in the cooking department, at least. (Not that I'm a "good" wife now, but I'm trying!) I've always kept the house cleaned, the clothes washed, and all that. But cooking? Not something I've tried to do much. I have never been a good cook, and I've always accepted that fact. I just didn't get the cooking gene. My parents are both excellent cooks, and used to own a restaurant when I was younger. You'd think I would have absorbed some knowledge and skill, right? Nope. Cooking has always been a mystery to me. I've just never been able to take raw meat and vegetables and make something delicious out of it.

My husband, on the other hand, is a fabulous cook. I guess he got the cooking gene from his mama, who is also really good. His mama is known for certain things, like her chicken pastry, fried chicken, and fried pork chops. Not to mention her fugde, punch, and other desserts! DH can cook a steak on the grill like you wouldn't believe. I rarely order steaks in a restaurant because I'll always be disappointed; no way can they compare to DH's steaks! I've honestly never tasted anything DH cooked or grilled that wasn't good. He loves to find new recipes and try them out, though he never follows them exactly. He's good enough in the kitchen that he knows how to improvise. This is astonishing to me. I just don't get it.

When I try to improvise in the kitchen, its usually a disaster. Sometimes its a disaster even when I exactly follow a recipe step by step. Like last night, for example. I decided to try a wheat bread recipe for the bread machine. Okay, maybe I shouldn't call last night a disaster, because the bread is delicious. But its deformed. I don't know what happened. It looks like it tried to escape the machine, because it rose waaaaay higher than it was supposed to, and the top is very misshapen. I wouldn't even take a picture of it.

DH is one of those cooks who can make a pie with a lattice crust and it looks like a picture.

Sometimes I hate him. (Not really.)

But like I said, lately, I have been really making an effort in the kitchen. Until a few months ago, DH did all the cooking in our house, unless he was too busy with work. On those nights, I fixed hamburger helper, manwhiches, breakfast, or something else easy. Earlier this year, DH was invovled with a project with his dad, and I realized that if I wanted to actually eat "good" stuff for supper, it would be up to me to cook more often. So I started to learn.

I'm very proud of the progress I've made. The things I fix are not a big deal to most people, but to me, its all very impressive. Take this supper from last week, for example - the crock pot chicken thighs. I really shouldn't call it that, because I only used the crock pot to cook the chicken thighs, then added them to something else. But I have NEVER used the crock pot like that before. I actually hate crock pot meals. All the ones I've ever had have tasted the same: beef with potatoes, carrots, and onions in cream of mushroom soup. Just not my flavor. And its never occurred to me to use the crock pot to do some of the cooking for me while I'm at work.

Until now!

I knew we had 5 chicken thighs frozen in a bag. I can't for the life of me remember why we had 5 random thighs, but that's what it was. I've been thinkin for a while on what I could possibly do with those thighs. I'm not really a dark meat kinda gal, anyway, and really, what recipe on earth calls for THIGHS?? Tons of them do, actually. (Thank you, Google!)

So, that morning, I dumped all 5 thighs, still frozen, into the crock pot. I coated them very well with garlic salt, because I read on a website that morning that that would give them lots of flavor. (I beg to differ, as I couldn't taste anything remotely garlicy or salty when they were done. Next time, I'll just do plain salt and a lot more of it.) I turned the crock pot on Low and headed to work. I was pretty nervous all day. Would I come home to dried out, overcooked chicken thighs, or worse, a burned down house??

Turns out, they were perfectly cooked. And my house smelled amazing. Here's what I came home to:

The thighs had produced quite a bit of juice. Pretty cool.

To further impress myself, I took them out, deboned them, then added them and their juice to a pot with chicken stock. I threw in some egg noodles (I loooooove egg noodles) and a couple of chicken boullion cubes, just for good measure. When the noodles were done, I had a pretty great dish!

DH said there was too much chicken for the amount of noodles, but the flavor was good. Next time I'll know, more noodles! Of course, this made enough to feed an army, not my family of 3, so me and C ate it for lunch a few days, then I froze the rest for later. I'm hoping it'll taste just as good after its been frozen!

I even went on that night to make mashed potatoes. Like from scratch! I usually make them from the little packets, where you just add boiling water. They taste really great, but we have a ton of potatoes, so I've been trying to use them. I added a little too much milk, so they were a little soupier than I like, but they tasted good!

So there you have it. My simple-yet-impressive-to-me meal. DH didn't get why I was so excited. But this supper signified something very big to me: I'm really "growing up" in the kitchen. I began my meal early that morning (after I planned it out the night before), didn't use anything from a box or package to help me, and it was a real "southern" meal. Which means it was heartfelt and homey, and comforting. Maybe that's reading too much into some chicken in a crock pot, but that's what it means to me! I'm feeding my family, and what's better, feeding them things that are not "processed" in a factory. I'm putting love into my cooking now, and I think it shows. And dare I say? I'm actually begining to enjoy cooking for my little family! ( :


High Five for Friday!

I'm going to eventually link up with Lauren at from my grey desk for these High 5 posts. Every week, Lauren gives the top 5 highlights of her week, and invites other bloggers to do the same. I don't feel I'm quite ready to link up and really get my blog out there, so for now I'll just share my own 5 highlights and not tell the entire world. ( :

1. My husband and I had a great day together yesterday! I had an upper endoscopy done first thing in the morning, which was not exactly fun, but afterwards, we spent the whole day together. Granted, I was groggy and extremely tired from the sedation, but I'll take what I can get. We did a little shopping, and a lot of talking, which was wonderful.

2. I discovered Pancake Puppies at Denny's! Yesterday was my first time eating at a Denny's restaurant, and it was really good. But my favorite thing was the Pancake Puppies we got as an appetizer. (I know, right? Who needs an appetizer for breakfast?? I do, when I've not been allowed to eat since the night before and its waaaaay past my normal breakfast time!
3. Even better, I found out how to make them! Maybe this shouldn't count as 2 things, but if you tried them, you'd probably understand. Its actually not as hard as I thought, so this is definitely something I am going to try soon! (This recipe is for the blueberry/white chocolate ones, which sound Divine, but I had the strawberry ones yesterday. You dip them in cream cheese icing and it is heavenly!)

4. Dye-free children's ibuprofen. We don't use a lot of pain medication for C, but lately we've been giving her ibuprofen at bedtime. She's cutting 4 molars and she is in serious pain (as evidenced by her constant waking up and screaming throughout the night). The doctor told us it was fine to give her ibuprofen every night until the molars are in. She likes the grape flavored stuff (I always buy generic to save money), but its dyed purple. I recently purchased some dye-free generic (I think I have the Target version). Its berry flavored. I gave it to C last night and she loved it. Score! I read a long time ago that all the dyes that go into foods, drinks, and medications can be irritating for some people, especially kids. All kinds of issues have been linked to dyes. So just in case, I like to avoid them when possible.
5. The beach! DH and I took C this past Sunday. It wasn't C's first time at the beach, but it was her first time this year. Meaning, it was her first time when she could actually play! Last summer, she wasn't walking and the beach did not impress her. She loved it this time! We went in the morning when it wasn't so hot or crowded. We played in the water, built sandcastles (which C immediately destroyed, haha), and looked for seashells (which C decided should be thrown back into the ocean right away). Our beach day was a perfect day. ( :

What are the highlights from YOUR week?


My first loaf of bread

I made my first loaf of homemade bread this weekend. Last week, I asked my friends on facebook if anyone had a bread machine I could borrow. I thought I might enjoy breadmaking, but I didn't want to buy an expensive machine only to find that I hated it. (And I am too lazy and impatient to make bread the old-fashioned way, by hand!) I lucked up and one of my good friends and neighbors had one she was willing to let me borrow.

I finally got a chance to try it this weekend, and wow! I'm hooked. I'm a huge bread eater, anyway - I mean, I could seriously live off of bread alone, I think - but my homemade bread was so GOOD! I just made plain white bread. Didn't think I should get too crazy my first go-round. It couldn't have been easier, either. You just dump all the ingredients in the bread machine, hit the start button, and you're done! C and I enjoyed watching the dough being mixed, and it was neat to keep checking on it and seeing it rise.

After one loaf of bread, I can see that this will be something I enjoy. I don't know if it will save me money, but I love the idea of making more of what we consume. I can see myself making bread every week, and even making extra to freeze.

My next goal is to find a better way to store the loaves I make. Right now, its in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Which is not a problem, except I'm worried that plastic is not the best way to store homemade bread. I also hate using disposable bags, even though I can rinse it out and reuse it for the next loaf. Sooooo....I've been looking at cloth bread bags! There are a ton of them out there - who knew? Of course, I LOVE the idea of a cloth bread bag!! ( :

This image is from Google images. I'll have my own bread bag soon and I'll take a picture! ( :

Updated to add the recipie I used!

White Bread for the Bread Machine
1 cup warm water

3 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups bread flower
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)

Just add everything to the bread machine in that order, and it'll work perfectly! I didn't have any bread flour, so I used all purpose flour, and it was fine. I will be buying bread flour for my next loaf, though, because bread flour is supposed to make for a "sturdier" bread. My loaf was kinda flimsy. I'm also gonna reduce the amount of salt in the next loaf, I think 1 1/2 teaspoons is a bit too much.


Why I Chose To Cloth Diaper

Cloth diapering is probably the "crunchiest" thing I do. (It wasn't the first, but since breastfeeding is such a controversial topic, I'll save that one for later!) It has come to my attention that "crunchy" is not a term that everyone is familiar with. "Crunchy" is basically another term for "green" or "environmentally friendly." I like the term because it sounds cooler (haha). Plus, "green" gives the impression that I recycle like a maniac, only buy natural or organic products, and am vegan. But that's not me at all (especially the vegan part - I very much love meat!). A friend of mine says I'm hippie. I see why she says that, but "hippie" makes me think of dreadlocks, weed, and "peace, love, and happiness, man." Also not me. So "crunchy" it is!

There are lots of "things" I do that make me claim to be crunchy. And like I said, cloth diapering is probably the most crunchy thing. When I first started using cloth diapers, many people had negative reactions. Here's a sample of questions/comments I heard in the beginning:

Can't you afford REAL diapers?
What do you do with the POOP??!
Don't you have to wash them, like, every day?? And doesn't that take a lot of time, not to mention electricity/water?
That is disgusting.
That's too much work.

And the list goes on and on. I think now that I've been cloth diapering for about 15 months now people have finally accepted that it's just my thing. I've even convinced some that its a better way to diaper. I have to admit, when I first started learning about cloth diapers, I had some of the same thoughts. I knew cloth diapers was what my generation was diapered with, way back in the day. I knew some people probably still used them, cause they couldn't afford "real" diapers. But that's about all I knew. I never had any desire to look into the subject. In fact, at our baby showers, we got so many disposable diapers, we had enough to last until our baby, C, was 4 months old, and we were estatic!

I first heard about modern cloth diapers when C was about 3 months old. I was googling baby pictures to get some ideas for her upcoming photo shoot. I stumbled across one baby portrait and the baby was wearing a cloth diaper. It was SO cute that I started researching where to find a diaper like that. I didn't realize that it was an actual diaper, though; I thought it was just something cute for a photo. That one little picture started it all....I found cloth diapering websites, youtube channels, chat rooms, all kinds of things online. And I learned. I thought it might be something I'd like to try, so I bought a diaper. My first purchase was a Kawaii Baby pocket diaper, and we did use it in C's photo shoot. I also found a woman in my town who was giving away her old diapers. I met up with her and got a bag full. Unfortunately, those diapers were so worn out I wouldn't even consider putting them on my baby, but they were useful for my research.

When C was around 4 months old, we ran out of disposable diapers. It was Easter weekend. She has very sensitive skin (just like her mama), and the only diapers that didn't bother her too much were the Pampers Swaddler's Sensitive. And of course they were hard to find. On Easter Sunday, DH (that's "Dear Husband!") and I went to WalMart to get a pack of diapers. They were out of the Swaddler's Sensitive in C's size, so we bought the Pamper's DryMax. Well, in my opinion, those diapers are pretty much the devil. Poor baby C's butt looked terrible after just one diaper change.

Right then and there I decided I was going to try cloth diapering for real. I did a TON of research, and decided that prefolds and covers would be the best option for me. Well, prefolds during the day, and pockets at night. (I'll do more posts later on the specifics.) I started out using the cloth only part-time, just when I was home with C. Then I started sending her to my mother-in-law's in a cloth diaper, but providing her with disposables to use throughout the day. When C was around 6 months old, I asked my MIL (mother-in-law) if she'd give the cloth a try, and she said yes. After that C was cloth diapered full-time. MIL still had a few disposables left over, and occasionally she'd use them up, but every time C's poor little hiney would get a rash. The same was true for the disposable wipes. When I started using cloth diapers, I switched to cloth wipes as well. Once we all made the switch, disposable wipes really bothered C's skin. There's just so many harmful chemicals in those things!

Obviously, the chemicals in disposable diapers and wipes don't bother every baby, so that's not a good motivation to make the switch. It was a huge factor for me, though. Cost was another factor. Once we ran out of the diapers we got from our showers, I started figuring up how much disposable diapers would cost us. Holy cow, its a lot!! I "saved" over $800 by using cloth diapers in the first 12 months (if only I had actually saved that money!). It would have been more if I'd started using them sooner, when C was going through more diapers a day.

Convenience was another factor for me. I never have to run to town to get diapers or wipes anymore. "Running to town" around here is not the simplest thing in the world. I mean, yes, we have cars and all, but we don't live near town. The closest one to us is 15 minutes away, and the WalMart there doesn't normally carry the kind of diapers that we used to like (at least, they never did when I needed them). So the next option was the bigger town about 30 minutes away. Not exactly a quick run. I never run out of diapers now, because I have more than enough for several days and nights, and then I just throw them in the washing machine.

Cloth diapers are environmentally friendlier than disposables, too, though that wasn't a huge consideration for me (I am ashamed to say). Disposables just sit around in landfills and take for-freakin-ever to decompose. Plus, then you've got human waste sitting around in landfills - ew. When you use cloth diapers, the poop goes into the toilet and into the septic system, where it belongs. Doing something better for the environment wasn't the major appealing thing for me, but I did think it was pretty cool and it did make me feel good!

One more motivation for me: the cute factor. I know, I know, its a diaper, it holds pee and poop - what's cute about that? But, seriously, there some adorable ones out there! And yes, I care about how my baby's butt looks under her dress.

I am proud to say that I cloth diaper. Its not a lot of work (I'll talk about that in a later post). I enjoy it. The only time C gets diaper rashes now is when she eats something that doesn't agree with her stomach, and sometimes when she's teething.

But my favorite thing about cloth diapering? Its led me to make more "crunchy" changes in my life. It opened up a whole new world to me, one I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring. ( :

For more information about cloth diapers:
The Real Diaper Association
Green Mountain Diapers - Tons of really great info, though I've never ordered from this site.
Dirty Diaper Laungry - She also has a YouTube channel.
Sweet Bottoms Baby Boutique - This is where I got the majority of my diapers. They're in NC and they offer free shipping!


Hello and welcome!

Hey ya'll! I'm Nikki. Being an obsessive blog reader for quite some time now (we won't go into details about just how obsessive I am...!), I decided it was high time I started my own blog. (I've actually had one for years, but its become more of a diary of sorts, so its terribly boring to everyone but me.) Here, you'll find a wide mix of topics, including country life, crunchy living (more on that later), food, cleaning, health/beauty, parenting, and much more -  basically, whatever interests me. ( :

To start, here's a little background info on me. I live in a very rural area of North Carolina, born and raised here. I got married back in 2009 to my sweetheart, who would probably prefer to remain anonymous for now. We had our first child in 2010, and she is currently 19 months old (my, how time flies!!). The husband and I both work full-time, and I am blessed with a good mother-in-law who keeps my daughter. We live on a farm of sorts. We have horses, cows, chickens, ducks, and rabbits. And the standard dogs and cats. And a garden. The husband does a little crop farming on the side, and he runs a side business as well (yeah, he stays busy!). I sell Mary Kay on the side, too, though I'm not very successful at it, if truth be told. Oh, and I teach horseback riding lessons, as well.

Having a baby completely changed me. I know lots of people say that, but I can honestly say that every aspect of my life has changed (in a good way) since she's been born. I've learned so much about myself, my marriage, and life. I've become crunchy. (Like I said, more on that later!) I've become so many things I never dreamed I'd be, but I love it. I certainly don't claim to have it all figured out, but I invite you to join me on my journey to learn more. I'm constantly learning ways to be "green," save money, be a better mother, be a better wife, and be a godly woman. (Yep, I'm a Christian.) Its taken me a long time to realize I needed to make some changes in my life, but now I've jumped in with both feet and I'm lovin it! God's got an awesome plan for me, and I'm doing my best to be what He wants me to be.

Stick around, you might learn somethin useful with me along the way. At any rate, you're sure to be entertained! ( :