Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pinterest inspired Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Normally my goal is to recreate a Pinterest recipe to the exact specifications of the recipe. Sometimes however necessity (i.e. not having all of the ingredients) dictates small changes and sometimes personal tastes and desires means changing the recipe a lot. When I decided to try this specific recipe and I actually pursued all the ingredients I decided that this would become a "Pinterest Inspired" recipe, not quite a recreation and not quite an original  I was taking a chance since I would be changing so much of the amounts and some of the ingredients but I figured when it comes to this blog a little failure never hurt anyone (and I always have oven ready pizza on reserve in the freezer.)

The original recipe comes from and I am sure it is delicious in its own right. This recipe to helped me to clean some items out of my fridge to make room for the new groceries I bought this morning. So here are my recipe amounts, but keep in mind I was winging it so this could easily be adjusted to fit the tastes of the chef.

2 shredded chicken breasts (I had these in the fridge already, I cooked about 5 chicken breasts a few days before in the crock-pot so I would have shredded chicken to eat all weekend. I had about 2 breasts worth by this morning.)
Half a bottle of V8 Low Sodium- about 32 oz
2/3 a 24 oz jar of mild salsa
Half a box of chicken broth (about 16oz)
1 can of mild Enchilada sauce
1 can of corn (slightly strained but you can leave some water in it)
1/2 a small sweet onion chopped
Spice wise I sprinkled in some salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, and smoked chipotle Tabasco. I tend not to like things too spicy and I was hoping I could get an almost 4 year old to eat it so I didn't go to heavy on any of the spicy stuff.

Throw all of these ingredients in the crock-pot, stir to mix everything together, and put the heat on low. I set the timer for 5 hours since the original recipe called for 4-6 hours on low. I happen to be tracking calories on MyFitnessPal (a great website and app by the way) and put the recipe in to see how many calories was in it. Now don't quote me on exact amounts but if you split this recipe in 6 servings (which would be pretty large servings) it would only have about 198 calories per serving, so obviously it is pretty low calorie (without the garnishes which we'll get to in a second).

After the timer goes off just put it in bowl with as much cheese as you would desire (we used the Great Value Mexican Cheese Blend). I also added a spoonful of light sour cream to mine as well.
With cheese
After sour cream and cheese mixed together

We ate this with tortilla chips as well (which obviously throws the 198 calories a serving thing out the window). The hubs and I thought it was delicious and even the kid ate a good bit (by her eating standards). The flavors came together very well and had just enough spice to add flavor without it being too hot. The thing I love about this recipe is how easily it can be adjusted for personal taste. You could add more spice, more heat, different salsa, different types of beans, different chilies and it would still turned out good. We have 2 small servings for lunch tomorrow and one large serving that will be going in the freezer to save for later. You could also add more of each ingredient in a larger crock-pot and easily serve a crowd. I highly suggest trying this recipe and then letting me know what changes you made and how it turned out. There is nothing better than an easy and highly versatile recipe to have ready in your cooking arsenal. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quick Coconut Oil Challenge (and Warm Fuzzies) update

I've tried a few new coconut oil uses from the 52 uses list ( and thought I would quickly share my results.

11. Use a tiny dab on your underarms for a natural deodorant- So I tried this one on a weekend in case it failed me and I ended up starting to smell a little less than fresh. The oil starts out solid but with a little body heat very quickly turns into clear oil. I rubbed about a dime sized amount on both armpits and it seemed to cover it well. The coconut oil has no distinct smell and after checking it about an hour later I hadn't yet got a whiff of any BO. Now an anti-perspirant this is not and I am almost 8 months pregnant so sweating is a pretty normal occurrence. About 3 hours in I needed more coconut oil, and after 6 hours I went ahead and put my normal Degree back on. If I was super into holistic living or completely out of my normal deodorant (and my husbands) I could use this in a pinch, but I wouldn't recommend it for everyday use.

12. Use coconut oil instead of shaving cream- I had taken a bath and thought I would give this one a shot. I rubbed about a quarter sized amount of the solid oil on each leg and used my Venus razor. This went well and my legs did feel very nice after I had finished shaving them. The razor I use does have moisturizing bars on the top and bottom, so all the credit should probably not be given to the oil. I ended up making the bathwater oily as well so I quickly rinsed off in the shower when I was finished. I might try this again, especially if I was giving myself a little home spa day as my legs did end up feeling really nice after I was done.

50. Massage into your nails and cuticles to help strengthen them- I have been using the coconut oil as a hand moisturizer and I really like how my hands feel. It leave the hands pretty oily at first, but it quickly dries (even faster than your typical hand moisturizer). I have been applying extra to my nails and cuticles for about a week, but I can't with certainty say they are any stronger. However, my cuticles look healthier and it has helped with the dry skin that leads to hang nails. A bonus has been the oil makes it easier to slip on my wedding rings after my shower, as my fingers are starting to swell a bit (again almost 8 months pregnant) and my rings are starting to get a bit tight.

On a random note, I have found (by accident) that my cats at least think the coconut oil tastes good. How did I find this out you may wonder. Well both of them at different times have come up to me and licked my hands shortly after moisturizing them. One of them actually woke me up in the middle of the night licking my hand. It was off putting to say the least, and I plan on seeing if they are just acting weird or if they actually do enjoy the taste of coconut oil that much.

On a Warm Fuzzies note, I happened to find an awesome t-shirt on that I thought fit one my librarian friends. I don't always intended to spend money of stuff for my friends but sometimes when something fits a person so well, you can't help but buy it. I have a few more warm fuzzies planned for this month as I know the more pregnant I get the less time I'll have to put different things together. I am really enjoying this resolution and can't wait to get to everyone on my list.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Preparation Full of Wins, Fails, and Good Enoughs Part II

As was mentioned earlier, I felt like I had an expectation to live up to when it came to party treats for Kathryn's school. I hunted around Pinterest for something easy, kid friendly, and cheap to make for the party that still met that Pinterest adorable standard. I spent awhile hunting and changing my mind on what I was going to make, finally settling  on something where honestly I felt like I wasn't living up to any type of Pinterest standard (if that even exists).

Valentine Item #3- Brownie + Cupcake= Meh

I came across a pin that showed a strawberry cupcake that had a bottom made out of brownie batter. I figured that any 3-4 year old child could appreciate a dessert that encompassed brownie, cake, and icing. The pin however was one of the hated "pin of a picture but not a recipe" and the only instructions on the pin was to use brownie batter and strawberry cake mix and bake by the cake mixes instructions. On a normal Pinterest experiment I would have just gone with it, assuming that the likelihood of success was going to be fairly low. However, I was going to be feeding these to children so I wanted to see an actually step by step recipe. Thanks to my friend Google I found one easily, and saw that pretty much the pin instructions were valid. You just use brownie batter and cake batter and follow the cake batter baking instructions. I was leery but decided to try it anyway, figuring that Pinterest fails are as popular as Pinterest successes and I could always run to Walmart in the morning and pick up cupcakes if necessary.
I started with the brownie mix and followed the instructions to get the batter mixed. I had bought Valentine cupcake liners at Walmart and lined my well used silicon bakeware. I used a large tablespoon to pour the batter in and filled each bottom about 1/3 full. I was running a little short on brownie mix by 20th cupcake but didn't want to make a whole entire second batch, so this particular brand yielded me about 22 brownie bottoms. The last two cupcakes were purely cake batter. Then I spooned in the cake batter leaving a little room at the top of each liner. The batter yielded 24 regular sized cupcakes and about 6 mini cupcakes that I made because I didn't want to waste the batter and couldn't eat it due to the raw eggs (stupid possible food poisoning.) They went into the oven at 350 degrees and I set the timer to 25 minutes like the cake mix box instructed.
They weren't super pretty going in (which I can chalk up to my lacking cupcake making skills) and the weren't a whole lot better coming out. After the timer went off I had a sneaking suspicion that the brownie batter wasn't cooked all the way. I wanted to leave them in the oven a bit longer but the cake part was nicely brown and I didn't want to burn them. I decided to give them 3 more minutes in the oven and then hope for the best. After the cooled a bit I picked the ugly duckling of the bunch and peeled the paper to see how it went.
The success was that yes the brownie batter did bake (except in one random one where it was still gooey, not sure what happened to that one) but in true brownie form it stuck like glue to the liner. Taste wise it was OK, the chocolate and the strawberry cake mix went well together but I wasn't wowed at the combo. I soon remembered that these were going to be fed to the delicate pallets of preschoolers and I wasn't to worried about them being all that critical of them.

I'm not sure if I'll try these again but if I do this is what I would change. #1 Buy better liners- These were cheap decorative liners and probably not made to handle the super stickiness of brownie batter. #2. Pam the crap out of for mentioned liners- Again even more expensive liners probably aren't made to handle brownie batter. #3 Bake them longer- I probably could have kept them in the oven awhile longer with out burning the cake part and that may have helped the brownie at the bottom bake a bit better. After some icing, sprinkles, and a decorative toothpick they came out looking pretty good and according to the report of my preschooler, they were Yummy! (again we aren't talking about a complicated pallet)
K was on sprinkle duty

Valentine Item #4- Peanut Butter Blossoms (Valentine's Day edition)
Now these were a bit of a cheat as I make this type of cookie every Christmas, the only change being instead of using Hershey Kisses you use Dove heart shaped chocolates. I saw this pin awhile ago and figured that if the cupcakes went south I could redeem myself with these. I used Betty Crocker bagged peanut butter cookie mix and followed the regular instructions. With peanut butter blossoms you roll the dough in small balls and cover them in regular table sugar. I typically have a cereal sized bowl with sugar in it, sprinkle some on top and the roll the side to get everything covered.
Put the dough on the cookie sheets and bake for about 8 minutes at 375 degrees. While they are baking quickly unwrap a bunch of Dove hearts (while trying not to eat them, that's the real challenge). As soon as the come out of the oven place the Dove hearts in the middle. It takes awhile for the chocolate to cool so you can stack them (I ended up putting them in the fridge for awhile so I could get them off the cookie sheet and stacked on the tray I was taking to school). Taste wise these were better than regular peanut butter blossoms but that may be because I think the Dove chocolate is tastier than Hershey Kisses.
Fresh out of the oven
Cooled and on the snack tray
As far as easy goes these are definitely that, while still being a little extra dressed up for Valentine's Day. My husband called me after he had dropped K off at school and said that the teacher's were impressed by my treats and K's Valentines and I had retained my standing as a Pinterest Mom. When I came home from school with her treat box full to the brim I could see that I was not the only Pinterst Mom (and not the only one to use cereal for a Valentine, but I think my Valentine card was cuter). Now I have about a month to come up with something for K's birthday treat in March (and you know I'm already working on ideas).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Preparation Full of Wins, Fails, and Good Enoughs

Valentine's Day Preparation Full of Wins, Fails, and Good Enoughs-Part I

It has been amazing to see Kathryn be this excited about holiday party at school. Last year she was indifferent to Valentine's Day, completely content to give out her cards and eat some candy but not sure really what the purpose of the day really was. This year, she has been ALL about Valentine's Day. She has been talking about her party for over a week, excited to help me make cupcakes for her class, and even more excited to get her Valentine's (we working on that better to give than receive concept, she is just shy of 4). This has also been my first Valentine's Day as a stressed out, over achieving, Pinterest addicted mom.

I should first tell you that I don't usually take K to school, so I rarely see her morning teachers. My husband is in charge of drop off and on holiday party days in charge of dropping off all of my Pinterest inspired creations. Last week one of K's teachers commented that she was excited to see what Pinterest creation I was coming up with for Valentine's Day and instead of being honored I was overcome with a bit of anxiety. I had apparently set myself up to be a "Pinterest Mom", and now I had set a bar that I wasn't sure I was capable of hurdling over. I know rationally that if I just brought in a veggie tray or some other store bought party item, I wasn't going to be judged for it (especially at 8 months pregnant). However, try as I might my over-achieving type A personality just wouldn't let me phone it in. I had to try to doing something cute and creative, which in the end led to mixed results.

Valentine Item #1- The Valentine's Card Box

I was not informed that K even needed a card box until Monday of this week, when I happened to see a small note (in very small handwriting) that said to bring in a decorated shoebox for the party. I of course wanted to do something cute and perused Pinterest looking for ideas. However, after seeing the amount of effort that a lot of these would take along with all of the other Valentine's related tasks I had at hand I decided a less hands on approach would be best. We had no shoe boxes in the house, but as fortune would have it we had just bought a jumbo box of K-cups at Sam's Club and the box was not only the right size but also had a perfect opening already cut out.

I went to Walmart and bought some red wrapping paper, some Hello Kitty stickers (alas there were no My Little Pony stickers so I had to find the next best thing), and some stick-on jewels and let Kathryn be head decorator. I had some scrapbook letters that I used for the top and other than that I was relegated to gift wrapper and helpful assistant.
K's box wrapped and ready to be decorated
Midway through the creative process
Finished Product
I am happy that I let K take the reins on this one. She had a blast decorating it and even though it looks like an almost 4 year old decorated it, she was the mastermind and not me. I could have agonized in making a perfect robot, toothy monster, or dragon like I saw on Pinterest but then I would have been doing all the work on something that is only ever going to be used once. In the end, this was better even if its not really Pinterest board material.
Valentine Item #2- The Valentine's Day Cards
I had originally wanted to do a cute Publisher made Valentine and attaching it to Squeezable Apple Sauce packets that said "I Hope You'll Be My Main Squeeze" like I had seen on Pinterest. My idea was thwarted when I found that my local Sam's Club didn't carry the squeezable apple sauces in bulk and buying enough at Walmart would have cost more than I was willing to spend. I then remembered another Valentine I had see that used single serving cereal boxes with "Have a Cerealsly Happy Valentine's Day" posted on them. I bought the 30 pack of Kellogg's mini cereals and created the card on Publisher is just a few minutes. I think they turned out cute and just had to be cut out and the double sided taped to the boxes.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quick Coconut Oil Challenge and Warms Fuzzies Resolution update

Earlier in the week I posted about my challenge to try as many of the 52 Ways to Use Coconut Oil from . I didn't get to as many this week as I had hoped, 3rd trimester fatigue is creeping in and I've struggled to fit everything in. However this week I have completed two and thought I would share my opinions.

#4- Use as a super conditioner on your hair (apply to dry hair, leave in as long as possible and then shampoo as normal). I coated my hair in coconut oil (at least 2 tablespoons) and put on a shower cap while I took a bath. I looked like a character from The Outsiders and my hair felt disgusting but I did it anyway in the name of science (or at least blogging). I bathed for at least 20 minutes before I scrubbed the oil of of my hair. I also conditioned it with my regular conditioner before I towel and blow dried my hair. My general consensus is that it was an OK leave in conditioner. I have used better products that left my hair feeling softer than this, but this obviously is much more natural than using a drugstore leave in. I'm not sure if using it more frequently would improve its success but I'm not rushing into doing this one again anytime soon.

#6- Keep a little container in your purse for lip moisturizer. Admittedly I didn't put on small container in my purse, but I have been using it frequently at home as a lip balm. It is a lot greasier than your typical Chap-stick and has no flavor (which is probably an OK thing) but it also rubs off the lips fairly quickly and needs to be reapplied often. My lips don't feel overly soft but it has done an OK job and keeping the winter chapped lips at bay.

I promise to make a greater effort this week to try a few more (but I have Valentine's Day tasks to accomplish as well). On the Warm Fuzzies front, I did do one this week. I sent a fairly short but heartfelt note to a friend of mine telling her how awesome I thought she was and why. She may not have even gotten it yet, but I know it made me feel good to send such a simple thing to someone who is such an awesome human being. I have been working on ideas of what to send, give, and make but I also want to leave it somewhat open as I like to just randomly find things that fit different people needs and personalities. I love coming up with ideas and this has already been a great endeavor that I look forward to continuing all year long.

This is going to be a busy week, I have K's Valentine's to make (a totally Pinterest stolen idea) and Valentine treats to make for her party on Thursday (of course Pinterest stolen as well). I also want to get one more Warm Fuzzy sent out and try at least 2-3 more coconut oil experiments. I can't wait to update this week with all of the fun projects I have going on, and I am totally looking forward to a Girl's Afternoon Out with M on Saturday! Yeah for busy but hopefully wonderful weeks! 

Cheesy Chicken Tator Tot Casserole- It Has Bacon So it Has to be Good

Cheesy Chicken Tator Tot Casserole- It's cheese, bacon, and tator tots, how could it not be delicious?

I'm always on the hunt for good, quick, crock-pot recipe- especially ones that require very little prep time and few ingredients. I came across this particular recipe on one of my frequent trips down the Pinterest Popular board. You can see the original post here: The pictures made it look delicious, and I figured it would probably please my picky preschooler and my cheese and bacon loving husband. When I decided to make it we had plans with friends of ours to come over for dinner so I thought it would be a good trial run where I could get multiple opinions at the same time (with the backup plan of Little Caesars if the recipe went south).

First you need these ingredients:
1 bag of frozen tator tots
2 cups of cheddar cheese
1 bag of bacon bits (not Bacos, real bacon bits)
1 pound of thawed chicken breasts (cubed)
3/4 cup of milk

The most time consuming part of this recipe is the cubing of the pound of chicken. I used dethawed Great Value brand chicken breasts. Once the chicken was cubed I started the rest of the meal prep. Anyone who has read my blog before knows that I am a huge fan of Glad Crock-pot Liners so I threw one in the crock-pot and sprayed it with cooking spray (the original recipe called for spraying the inside of the crock-pot with the spray so I followed suite, if you don't use crock-pot liners make sure you do this, if not it's probably not necessary). First you put in half of the bag tator tots, 1/3 of the cheese (I admittedly didn't measure the cheese, just eyeballed it when it looked like the potatoes were well covered) and 1/3 of the bacon bits (again, I just eyeballed the amount).
 In go the tator tots

After the bacon bits, put in the pound of thawed chicken (cut into cubes) in the crock-pot and season with salt and pepper, enough to cover but you don't have to go crazy with it.

Next add another 1/3 of the cheese (or however much you think you need) and 1/3 of the bacon bits. Finally add the rest of the tator tots, cheese, and bacon. Pour 3/4 cup of milk over the top of everything and put the lid on and set the timer for 4-4.5 hours on low.
I put this in around 12:45 this afternoon and we didn't get back from our afternoon bowling trip until well after 5:30 and didn't get around to eating it until 6:45. My crock-pot automatically turns itself to keep warm after the timer is done (which if yours doesn't, I highly recommend spending the 40ish dollars to get one that does) so I wasn't worried about it still being in the crock-pot for awhile after the timer had gone off.
After cooking and sitting on keep warm for over an hour.

Nicely plated
There was a consensus among the group that this was a very tasty dinner. The potatoes fell apart and had a very hash-brown like quality, while still having a little bit of crispness to them. The chicken was well cooked and tender and made for a good protein for this very cheesy bacony concoction. The kids seemed to like it (though we had to play a game of "how many more bites until we're done" but they didn't complain that it didn't taste good) and all the adults had seconds. The amount you get is quite generous as this fed two preschool girls, 4 adults with small second helpings, with enough leftover for one lunch this week. We also discussed at dinner how this could probably be easily transferred into a breakfast casserole by taking out the chicken and pouring scrambled eggs and milk over the top. I will be trying that in the near future and if it goes well it can be a Pinterest original (or at least a fun Pinterest fail). All in all it was a good crock-pot recipe and a good solid Pinterest Win!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A New Resolution and My Introduction to Coconut Oil

Warm Fuzzies for My Friends and the Magic Elixir Known As Coconut Oil

I realize that resolutions are usually made in January and that I may be a bit slow on the uptake but I suffer incredibly from pregnancy brain and I didn't have this idea until about a week ago. After the tragedy in Connecticut I have been following the 26 Acts of Kindness campaign started by Ann Curry, which has asked people to commit to doing 26 different random acts of kindness for strangers (#26Acts on Twitter). I was inspired and began committing these acts of kindness whenever possible. Though I have not reached 26, every act I have done has made me feel so much better about myself and humanity as a whole. I was thinking a few days ago that as amazing as it has been to do nice things for strangers, I really want to be connecting more with the people in my life who are important to me. Like any busy person I often neglect the important relationships, replacing Facebook messages and Twitter responses for real conversations and simple acts of kindness for the people in my life. I decided a few days ago to create a Warm Fuzzies List, a list of people in my life that I have committed to doing some small act of kindness for sometime this year.

This list is a Hodge Podge of amazing men and women who have helped shape who I am, whether I have known them for a short time, most, or all of my life. I am who I am because of them, whether by large act or small and they all deserve a display of appreciation from me. I am already a mother to one amazing little girl and about to become a mother to a little boy, and I want to teach my children to appreciate all of the people in their life that shape who they will become. I needed every person who has entered my life to teach, mold, and help me become the person I am and will continue to need them as I grow older (and hopefully wiser). I look forward to this resolution and began slowly last month, sending two great friends small tokens of my appreciation. I have a long list and I hope I can inspire anyone who reads these words to start their own Warm Fuzzies List and show those who are most dear to them, that they are important and valued. I also hope that you can begin to commit random acts of kindness to strangers as well, even if you can't commit to 26. One act of kindness can be the catalyst for amazing things.

On a less sentimental note, another resolution/pin I have been wanting to try is one I came across giving a list of 52 things that you can do with coconut oil. You can see the list in its entirety here I have been hearing for awhile about the miracle that is coconut oil and had told myself many times to pick some up and see if it was as amazing as everyone says. So today I committed to giving it a shot and trying as many of the 52 as I could (some don't apply to everyone, and some get a bit personal). Today I used it as a lip balm and it was great, a bit greasy but it did a great job making my winter chapped lips a bit smoother and had no discernible taste. I am excited to try some of the other items on the list and will keep you updated, and if you have tried any of the uses on the list (or have any that weren't included) please feel free to post a comment. I have at least one cooking pin coming up this week and two crafts in the works, so baring anything major happening or a sudden onslaught of pregnancy exhaustion I should have some cool posts coming up soon.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Totally Unsolicited Product Endorsement- Yoplait Greek 100 Calorie yogurt

I must preface this post by saying that Yoplait has in NO way paid me for my endorsement (not that I would be unwilling to accept some type of compensation if offered, they could pay me in yogurt). I just think it's good to support and spread the word about a product that I think is awesome. I begin by saying that I usually HATE Greek yogurt, I have tried many brands and other than The Greek Gods brand Honey version I hadn't found one that didn't taste like feet (or what I assume feet taste like). Last week at Target they had the Yoplait 100 Calorie Greek Yogurts on special and it was the lowest calorie Greek yogurt I had seen (and it didn't have aspartame) so I was willing to risk the $1.02 and try one. I chose vanilla with the idea of adding in granola or blueberries sweeten it up.

I was skeptical when I tried it, but was shocked with how much I liked it. It isn't as thick as traditional Greek yogurt and didn't have that inherent sour cream like tangyness like the overwhelming majority of Greek yogurts. Serving size is also very generous compared to traditional Yoplait varieties, especially since the whole container is only 100 calories. I have only tried the vanilla (but I'm sure the other 7 flavors are good too) and I have tried it with granola, blueberries, cherries, and peanut butter mixed in (but not at the same time). If you like Greek yogurt than I think you may like this more than the other major brands out there and if you're like me and don't like Greek yogurt, these may make you Greek yogurt convert. The average price I have seen has been between a dollar and a dollar twenty, so they are a bit pricier than your regular Yoplaits, but for volume received,calorie, and protein content I think they are worth the extra 40 to 60 cents. You can go to   and find out more about the other flavors and nutritional information (they have 13 grams of protein per serving).

If you have tried these I would love to hear your opinion, and if you haven't I triple dog dare you (and now you HAVE to try them, you know you can't say no to a triple dog dare) and tell me what you think.