Monday, May 7, 2012

Chicken Popeyes

When the boys were itty bitty, they loved to eat chicken pot pie.  I think I fixed it at least once per week just so I could experience that warm, fuzzy feeling brought on by their cheers. "Yay! Chicken Popeyes, Mommy! We love chicken Popeyes!"

Time marched on, as it tends to do.  Two little boys transformed into two big boys, and they decided that chicken pot pies were not so yummy after all.  Perhaps, ahem, I fixed it a little too often....

Back during the "Chicken Popeyes" years, I also created a recipe which Michael and my parents LOVED.  Mom and Dad would request it every time they would come to my house for dinner.  I prepared a homemade loaf of Italian bread, only I did not bake it as loaf.  Instead, I rolled it out, spread a chicken-spinach mixture along the middle, and sliced and braided the edges before baking.  Yummy-rific!  For some odd reason, I stopped making it, too.

A few months ago, I decided to bring back the braid but I didn't have time to prepare from-scratch bread.  However, thinking about the spinach filling brought Popeye to mind which caused me to recall "chicken Popeyes" which made me think-- maybe, just maybe, I could get the boys to eat pot pie again AND eat spinach if I took the braid recipe and tweaked it a bit.

And that my friends is how I came up with this recipe:

Chicken Popeyes

8 oz precooked, shredded chicken (great way to use leftovers)
1 pack frozen spinach, thaw and squeeze out all the liquid
1/2 can chopped blacked olives
4 oz. shredded pepper jack or mozzarella cheese
2 packages of puff pastry shells 

  1. Preheat oven according to puff pastry package directions.
  2. Place pastries on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. While the pastries bake, combine chicken, spinach, and olives.  Use a fork to separate the strands of spinach and chicken to get it mixed together well.
  4. Remove pastries from oven and remove tops.  Fill each crevice with some of the chicken-spinach mixture.
  5. Sprinkle a pinch of cheese shreds over the spinach, replace the pastry tops, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  I highly recommend the pepper jack!
  6. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  Fruit salad makes a great side.
Bake the pastries.

Mix spinach, chicken & olives.
Fill the mostly-baked puffs.
Sprinkle with cheese, close, and bake for 5 more minutes.
Serve fresh from the oven!

You could also include mushrooms, chopped onions, or any thing you like with spinach!  If you want to make the braided version, roll your bread dough out to the length of a typical cookie sheet.  It should be about twice as wide as the baking sheet.  You will need about twice as much filling and cheese as in the Popeyes recipe.  Spread it along the center of the dough, leaving about an inch of uncovered dough at the top and bottom and 2-3 inches on each side.  Using a pizza cutter, slice the sides horizontally into half-3/4" strips that stop just before the filling.  Pull the top left strip over the filling and then the top right.  Continue to alternate sides until all the strips are "braided" over the filling.  Tuck in the top and bottom excess, brush with egg whites, and bake at 400 degrees F until golden brown. 

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Youth Birding Competition 2012

Orville and Wilbur teamed up with two of their best buds, K and C of the Counter-cultural School, to compete in the Georgia Youth Birding Competition on April 27th and 28th.  If you have been reading this blog since its inception, you may remember these little boys.

Left to right: K, Orville, C & Wilbur

They're not so little now and entered the middle school division this year!

Left to right: Orville, K, C & Wilbur
Their birding adventure started on Friday evening.  We were supposed to pick up the CC School guys at 3:30 to give us plenty of time for travel and prep.  They had not been able to practice as a team even once this year, and we thought a few minutes of warm-up would help keep their eyes peeled, ears tuned-in, and voices communicating well.  However, at noon, Clifford the Big Red Van broke down, and we were stuck at the car dealership until 4:45 p.m.!  At 5 p.m. the competition officially began.  We were en route to our first birding spot when the boys identified their first bird.  It was an American Crow sitting on the side of the road!

We finally arrived at the state park at 5:30 p.m., and the boys proved a warm-up was not necessary.  They worked together like seasoned professionals!  I was so pleased and thankful because Molly (Mom of K and C and CCSchool blogger) and I have worked so hard in past years to help such very little boys to focus and communicate effectively.  I could see how these guys are growing in grace and maturity, and I praise God for the work He is accomplishing in them.  We left the state park with a total of 34 birds identified (in 1.5 hours) and then drove to a variety of spots in our hometown.  At 10 p.m., we were done for the day, and they had brought their total to 43.

Birding began before dawn on Saturday at a lake.  As the sun rose, the boys rapidly added to their list, identifying a green heron, bobolinks, killdeer, and a variety of warblers- just to name a few.

Why do we like birding so much? This picture says it all.
When we left the lake at 8 a.m. their total had risen to 62 birds- almost as many birds as they had identified in the entire 24-hour period in previous years!  We were pumped!  The boys had mentioned earlier in the week that they would like to break 100 this year.  I felt unsure about encouraging them in such a lofty goal.  Most teams who accomplish such a feat are in high school and begin their birding quest on Georgia's coast. 100 birds did not seem possible for a group of 10-12 year-olds who would be restricted to forests, lakes and reservoirs; however, with nine hours remaining and only 38 birds to go... MAYBE!

Our next stop would be a wetlands area, another lake, and a water-treatment facility- all in central Georgia.  They quickly hit 70... and then 80... and then 89!  As we were walking to our car to leave the wetlands area, they heard a brown-headed cowbird.  We left this area with 90 birds on the list!  They now refer to the cowbird as the number 90 bird.  :)

One of their favorite spots of the day was this Canada goose and goslings.  My boys had visited this spot over spring break with their grandparents and had seen the goose building her nest that day.  It was exciting to see the newly-hatched babies.

The boys identified these birds while at the water treatment facility.

At this point, it was getting hot and the birds were becoming scarce.  We moved on to another wildlife refuge in central Georgia in hopes of finding 10 more birdies.  We were running short on time though and needed to leave for the finish line just as they identified number 99, a Kentucky Warbler.

We took the above picture as we were prepping to leave the wildlife refuge.  Moments later, a red-cockaded woodpecker (a rare bird which can only be found in 2 locations in Georgia) sang.  The boys had bird number 100!  We were overjoyed!!   

Michael gives the boys a last-minute pep talk near the finish line!
We took off for the finish line, feeling the satisfaction of a job well-done.  However, we wanted to keep birding and get that total as high as possible!  Amazingly, while riding in the back seat with the window cracked open, K heard the faint song of a bird and asked me to pull over.  He thought it was a rose-breasted grosbeak- a bird reported to be at feeders in the area.  I pulled over, he played a sound recording of the grosbeak's song, we stepped out of the car, and sure enough...  it was the rose-breasted grosbeak.  I have learned over the years not to doubt any of these boys because they have all made amazing identifications.

Coach Michael says, "Everybody look to the left!"

Now Coach Michael says, "Everybody look to the right!"

At the finish line, they identified five more birds, bringing their final total to 105!  The last bird heard that day was a Blackburnian Warbler.  If you would like to see the full list of birds they identified, click here to be redirected to my birding blog.

"Now... everybody look silly!"
At the banquet, we waited with baited breath for the results.  Their total had blown our minds, and we thought they just might be contenders to win in their age division again.  We were I was a nervous wreck!  Thankfully, watching the birds of prey show helped us me to relax... a little.

The bald eagle was the highlight of the show.

The winners were finally announced!  The boys were blessed to experience a win in fundraising.  They earned more money than any other team in the competition.

C, Giff Beaton (birding record holder in GA), K, Orville, Tim Keyes (YBC Coordinator), & Wilbur awarding and receiving prizes for a record-setting fundraising total: $625!
Sadly, they faced the agony of defeat for bird totals in their age division.  The 3rd place team in the middle school division had found 110 birds!  The boys were a bit disappointed.  I felt sad for them.  However, it was our time to praise God in defeat, and He gave us the grace to do so.  What a good lesson and experience for our kids!  Real life is full of blessings and disappointments.  The mark of a mature Christian is living both abased and abound with thanksgiving and knowing that we can face all situations through Christ Jesus who is our strength.  We do not enter our kids in this competition just so they can learn about birds and win prizes.  Ultimately, it is one of many ways we strive to teach our children to run their races to win while rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks to God in all circumstances.  (Phil 4:12-13, 1 Cor 9:24 & 1 Thes 5:!6-18)

I am thankful for these guys!
God blessed them with an amazing weekend, an amazing total, and His amazing grace!  Could we ask for anything better?

Praising God, from whom all blessings flow,