Chicken Avocado Lime Soup….Perfect Summertime Soup!!

You can’t get any fresher than this!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe but since it’s summer time now.. maybe I’ll find just a little more time to BLOG again.  And since it’s summer, we typically don’t eat a lot of soups but it’s been dreary here in Mississippi (it has RAINED for weeks!)  and I’m just wanting some comfort food.  Not heavy though…just a light soup!  I found this on Pinterest and just had to try!

I know we as mothers are BUSY!  I’m busy (I have three kids, a husband who works long hours, I’m a preschool  teacher, and a small business owner) but for me, cooking for my family is how I show my love for them.  It’s my mission field and how I best serve my family in this season of life. Why do I do this?

  • When my husband comes home, I want the smell of dinner cooking to hit him the second he walks through the door.
  •  I want my family to sit together for a meal and be able to share our day.  No phones allowed!
  • I want to provide for them a healthy meal.  A meal full of flavor,  freshness and color.
  • I want to save $.  My husband is the primary bread winner (yes I work but my primary job is our home) and he works hard!  He leaves every morning before everyone is awake and most nights comes home late.  It is my job to spend wisely and budget our financed accordingly.  That means meal planning, shopping the grocery store ad and yes, clipping coupons!  Yes, it takes time but the rewards far outlast the work it takes.

I cut out processed, boxed meal years ago.  Hamburger Helper and processed meals like that are convenient yes!  But I can tell you that I can make most things in the same minimal time and serve my family more nutritious meals. It just takes a little planning.

The kids LOVED this recipe!  Even my picky 3-year old loved it!  This one is a keeper!

 

Chicken Avocado Lime Soup
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts*
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped green onions (including whites, mince the whites)
2 jalapeños , seeded and minced (leave seeds if you want soup spicy, omit if you don’t like heat) ISKIPPED THE JALAPENOS!
2 cloves garlic , minced (I USED 4..I LOVE GARLIC)
4 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth ( IPROBABLY ADDED MORE..I WANTED MORE LEFTOVERS.  I USED ONE CARTON OF CHICKEN STOCK AND SOME STOCK I HAD MADE FROM THE FREEZER)
2 Roma tomatoes , seeded and diced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 medium avocados , peeled, cored and diced
Tortilla chips , monterrey jack cheese, sour cream for serving (optional) (I CRUSHED UP SOME TORTILLAS FOR SOME CRUNCH)

Instructions
In a large pot heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add green onions and jalapenos and saute until tender,
about 2 minutes, adding garlic during last 30 seconds of sauteing. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cumin, season with salt
and pepper to taste and add chicken breasts. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to
medium, cover with lid and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken has cooked through 10 – 15 minutes (cook
time will vary based on thickness of chicken breasts). Reduce burner to warm heat, remove chicken from pan and let rest
on a cutting board 5 minutes, then shred chicken and return to soup. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Add avocados to soup
just before serving (if you don’t plan on serving the soup right away, I would recommend adding the avocados to each
bowl individually, about 1/2 an avocado per serving). Serve with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream if desired.
*For thicker chicken breasts, cut breasts in half through the length (thickness) of the breasts, they will cook faster and
more evenly.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Mama Miss
Copyright 2017 Cooking Classy

Sweet P at 4 Months Old… Amy Beckley Photography

 

I’ve learned over the years that a 4 Month Old has about a 45 minute window of “happiness”  when it comes to a photography session.  P fit that mold perfectly.  He was all smiles when I walked into the door and he never stopped.  He was a perfect newborn and he kept his streak going last weekend.  Mom and I decided to do his 4 Month Session at their home in P’s nursery where we did his Newborn session.  It was perfect!

Aren’t they the cutest couple EVER??

LifeStyle Photography..Amy Beckley Photography (WARNING: LONG POST)

I’ve been a “paid” photographer for close to 14 years now but I’ve always LOVED photography.  My passion came from my dad.  He always had a camera in his hand, in fact he bought his first camera when I was born.  He’ll tell you he exposed the first roll of film he took and ruined them taking them out of the camera.  I remember the smell of film and the canisters that film came out of.  I remember playing with those black canisters with the gray tops! (Anyone else remember those?)  I got a disk camera for Christmas when I was probably 10.  This dates photography wAAAAyyy back!

Remember these?

By the time High School rolled around, I had advanced to a real camera.  My Senior Year, I was School Photographer for the Yearbook.  Impressed?  ….. I graduated with 23 in my class…don’t be!

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, Gracie, my dad bought me a Nikon…a REAL, REAL camera!  Film too!  Gracie’s first year was spent in front of that camera and I spent a fortune printing images that were mostly terrible but I was proud of them nonetheless.  But I kept practicing and practicing.  I began taking photos of my neighbors children and I began to grow as a photographer.

When I went digital in 2002 (VERY primitive), I started shooting more.  By 2005, I had a studio set up in my upstairs bonus room.  Every Saturday, I would frantically clean my house and set my own two babies downstairs in front of the TV and shoot sessions.  In 2008, I converted my garage into a real studio.  I traveled to Nashville, San Antonio, New Orleans and Memphis for photography classes and conventions.  I read and studied everything I could get my hands on.  I spend hours online trying to improve and learn all there was to know about photography.  I’ve gone back and forth between teaching and trying the photography thing full time.  I’ve changed websites, cameras and even names but my true love of photography has not changed.

In 2014, I had a third daughter.  My family now included a 13 year old, a 12 year old who played travel softball and now a newborn.  My husband worked long hours and six days a week.  I made the decision then to put my business on the back burner.  I offered mini sessions in the fall and spring and mainly only took on clients that I had a previous relationship with.  Even then, I spent long hours on the computer editing and trying to get it all done and I admit, I didn’t handle it well.  My customer service and my timelines suffered.  I was stretched too thin and I began to question this whole photography thing.

About two years ago I began a journey.  I committed to a Bible study with Good Morning Girls.  The whole premise behind this study is to study one chapter of the Bible daily.  I began journaling and I began studying God’s Word deeper than I ever had.  This became a huge passion for me.  After a lengthy study on Prayer, I began praying for an answer to what my purpose I have in this world.  I questioned my place and what I could offer to others.  I placed it all in HIS hands.  It was no longer what I wanted to do but what did HE wants me to do.  I prayed that if this photography thing is HIS will, I will do it!  It didn’t take long for HIS answer.  The phone started ringing although I haven’t advertised in years.  The sessions that I did last fall were some of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had.  And there was the key…..they were EXPERIENCES!

EXPERIENCES…that’s what it’s all about.  Not quick sessions within a time limit.  Not cookie cutter, every session looks the same.  I am now drawn more to lifestyle and candid images.  My studio is still great and is still functioning but sessions in my client’s homes appeal to me more.  Natural light in contrast to huge studio lights and a sterile environment.  My style and my desire is evolving and it’s made me so excited.  I’ve stayed awake at night imagining and dreaming of this new chapter in my business.

I’m still working out details so please be patient with me.  I’ll be tweaking and changing a lot of my policies so bear with me.  I’m adding back print credits and proofing into my sessions.  I’ll be shooting less probably but the EXPERIENCE will be more meaningful. I can’t wait to share more in the coming weeks!

 

Asian Grilled Chicken and Sesame Almond Green Beans

So, we are officially on a healthy heart kick at the Beckley house!  I’ve been scouring Pinterest and the internet for healthy recipes that still taste great!  Found one…full of flavor, satisfying and heart healthy!  Win-Win!

Asian Grilled Chicken:

  • 1/4 C Honey
  • 3 T Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 2 T Finely Chopped Parsley
  • 2 t Grated Ginger Root
  • 1/2 t Pepper
  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  1. In a large bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and mix well.  Add chicken to marinade, turn to coat pieces , cover and refridgerate for at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.

2.  Grill or broil (I grilled) to desired doneness.

Sesame Almond Green Beans

  • 4 C Fresh Green Beans
  • 2t Sesame Oil
  • 2 t Butter
  • 1/2 C Slivered Almonds
  • 3-4 T Sesame Seeds
  • Chicken Stock (optional)
  1. In a large skillet heat sesame oil and butter over medium high heat
  2. Add green beans and saute for 3-5 minutes
  3. Stir in almonds and sesame seeds until green beans are cooked to  desired doneness.  **I added some chicken stock to soften them further.  I added the chicken stock and covered the skillet to let them steam.   My family likes them on the softer side.

 

I also added some crispy cubed potatoes to complete the meal!  There were NO leftovers!

Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Chicken Piccata and Italian Green Beans

So I got an Instant Pot for Christmas.  I was honestly terrified when I opened it.  Don’t terrorists use these things to make bombs?!?!?! I CAREFULLY opened it, stared at it for a long time, read the instructions (something I NEVER do…EVER!) and watched several YouTube videos. Still scared!  Never has an appliance intimidated me this much.  Finally I went for it!

I cooked oatmeal in it first…terrible! Mushy and inedible.  I tried stone ground cheese grits…wonderful!  Then I tried my Mississippi Roast recipe.  The directions said an hour!  An HOUR to make a roast.  Results?  Tough and chewy.  Done, but I prefer the slow cooker method.

Never one to give up…I kept going.  Honey Chicken…terrible (I used chicken thighs…the husband HATES chicken thighs).  Next time I will use chicken breasts and it will be perfect.  Then I cooked this Creamy Garlic Tuscan Chicken (recipe in a later post) and I heard angels sing!  If this is the only success, I will be a happy girl but fortunately  for me, I found another good recipe.

Chicken Piccata

 

 

Chicken Piccata with Italian Green Beans
  • 1 T Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts (I’ll flatten them next time or buy the thin sliced ones)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 minced shallot
  • fresh juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1/2 C White Wine
  • 1/2 C Chicken Stock
  • 1 t cornstarch dissolved in 1 T Chicken Stock
  • 1 T Sliced Green Olives
  • 1 T Capers
  • 1 T Chopped Fresh Parsley
  1. Preheat the pressure cooker, add the oil and heat 2 minutes.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the chicken breasts and brown in oil.
  3. Add shallots, lemon juice and zest, wine, and stock and secure the lid.
  4. When pressure is achieved, set timer for 10 minutes.
  5. When cook time is complete and pressure is fully released, open lid and remove chicken.
  6. With the lid off, stir in the dissolved cornstarch until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the olives, capers and parsley. Pour over the chicken and serve hot.

*I placed the chicken and sauce over thin spaghetti pasta!

 

Italian Green Beans

I couldn’t find fresh green beans so I used canned! Two cans of French Style Green Beans, minced shallots and garlic and sliced cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste! Fabulous!  Even the husband liked it!

Homemade Granola Cereal from 100 Days of Real Food

“I’m going to eat healthy this year!”  Everyone says this as a New Years Resolution, right?  I know I do EVERY SINGLE YEAR!  And I never completely  follow through.  Yes, I’ve made changes over the years.  I’ve cut out A LOT of processed foods.  I’ve cooked smarter and learned to cook things that we no longer have to dine outside the home for.  I’ve strived to cook most things from scratch and not used boxed things in the store and I’ve been successful for the most part!

But this year….I want to cut out more!  White sugars, flours…all the bad stuff.  I’ve followed Lisa Leake’s blog 100 Days of Real Food for a while.  I guess this is the blog that peaked my interest in changing our ways of eating.  I also read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.  After reading that book, you’ll NEVER want to eat processed food…EVER! It’s quite eye opening and disturbing.  When you really look at it and study it, you’ll see that most of what we put in our mouths are killing us.  Even the things we think are healthy really aren’t.  So our family’s eating habits are going to change this year.  Tiny steps at a time, but they will change.

So anyway, this is the first recipe I’ve tried from Lisa’s Cookbook 100 Days of Real Food.  I love granola so this is easy for me.  My big girls will like it, especially sprinkled on yogurt.  The texture may be too much for my 2 year old but I can sprinkle a touch in her yogurt and she may eat it.

Homemade Granola Cereal

Here is the link to Lisa’s Blog Post:  I followed it but doubled it.  I did use all pumpkin seeds and used coconut oil instead of butter.  I didn’t have any nutmeg but used all of the other spices.

Recipe: Granola Bars / Cereal (the perfect substitute for all those boxed cereals)

My take?  It was good.  Not as sweet as I’m used to but that is something I have to get used to, right?  Cost wise?  I did double it but I’m guessing it was about $10 total to make.  Pretty cost effective considering the health benefits.  I’m full after a bowl for breakfast and I shouldn’t have that sugar crash about an hour afterwards making me want to eat again.  It stores well and stores up to 2 weeks (don’t think it will last that long though.)

 

October Sessions are in Full Swing..Martin Family October 2016

I can’t believe it’s been a year since these two were born…and now they are EVERYWHERE!

abp_3578martin

October for me means beautiful weather, beautiful backgrounds and GORGEOUS light! Saturday was perfect.  There was a cool breeze blowing and the light was perfection. Mom and Dad were exhausted I’m sure from chasing the babies and digging leaves out of their mouths but I call this session a total success!

abp_3768martin abp_3709martin abp_3707martin abp_3682martin abp_3636martin abp_3605martin abp_3585martin abp_3552martinbw abp_3515martin abp_3512martin abp_3500martin abp_3471martin

The Importance of Planning Ahead..Open Faced Meatball Sandwiches

I officially went back to work yesterday!  While I only work part time, my days are A LOT shorter now.  Things that I got done during the summer in the mornings are now having to wait until late afternoon or night.  It always takes me a few weeks to get used to my new schedule.

Today when I got home I was/am TIRED!  Tired like delirious tired!  Cooking dinner was the LAST thing that I wanted to do.  So I brainstormed about the quickest, easiest dinner possible and I came up with this gem.  Kroger had this frozen french bread in the freezer section on Sunday for $1.30 (I bought 3!) !  I combined that with some homemade meatballs that I made extra a few weeks ago and put in the freezer and an “enhanced” jar of spaghetti sauce and dinner was done!

ABP_0351Salad

What is “enhanced” spaghetti sauce?  Simply put, I saute some onion and garlic in the sauce pan and then add the jarred sauce.  If I have basil in the garden I’ll add that too.  You can add anything you like…bell peppers, mushrooms, oregano, dried Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese…whatever you have on hand.  I added the frozen meatballs to the sauce and slow simmered for about an hour.  The meatballs helped flavor the sauce as well.

ABP_0352Salad

When meatballs are cooked through, cook the french bread according to package.  Top with Meatball and Sauce Mixture with some Parmesan Cheese and dinner is done!

Simple…CHEAP (Fed the 5 of us for like $6 WITH LEFTOVERS FOR TOMORROW!!!) …and PERFECT FOR THOSE NIGHTS WHEN DINNER IS THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO DO!

ABP_0355Salad

 

Crunchy Mexican Chicken Salad with Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing

I found this recipe about 2 years ago and with some tweaking it has become one of our favorite salad recipes.  The dressing is DIVINE!

Corn and Black Bean Mix- Heat through canned Black Beans and Corn.

Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing:

  • 1 Packet Hidden Valley Ranch Mix
  • 1 C Mayo
  • 1 C Buttermilk or 1 C Whole Milk with 2 T of Vinegar (Homemade Buttermilk)
  • 2 -3 Tomatillos
  • 1 bunch of Cilantro
  • 1-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • Juice of 1 Lime

Put all ingredients together in a blender and blend!  EASY!

ABP_0341Salad

Mexican Chicken

  • 3-4 Chicken Breasts
  • Olive Oil
  • Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Chicken Broth (2-3 Cups)
  • Can of Diced Tomatoes

I really don’t have a recipe for this!  I’m not a huge recipe follower.  I basically cook to taste.  But for this dinner, I seasoned with chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cooked through in an olive oil lined skillet.  After the outside of the chicken was browned, I took them out of the pan and sliced them.  I then returned them to the pan and added the Diced Tomatoes, Chicken Broth and Cumin.  I also added a little of the cilantro from the dressing that I had left over.

ABP_0347Salad

I let it simmer for about an hour.  I let most of the liquid cook out.  Taste occasionally and add salt and pepper accordingly. It will look like this after about an hour.

ABP_0348Salad

Layer on your plate with tortilla chips, lettuce, corn and black bean mixture, chicken, and cheese and top with dressing!

ABP_0350Salad