July 25, 2014

My Favorite Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad, especially in warmer weather because it doesn't need an oven that'll make the house hotter, doesn't take much effort and it's nice and cold. It takes me about half an hour, after the chicken is cooked, to make a huge batch with enough to freeze.



Easy Chicken Salad
I forgot to include the apples in the pic.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup diced celery
1 apple, diced
2 cups mayo (more or less depending on your preference)
3/4 cup craisins
1/4 tsp pepper
Double recipe to have extra to freeze.

Directions
Cook chicken in slow cooker until it comes apart easily. Pull apart with a fork once it's done.

Chill chicken in the fridge until it's cool. I use the bowl I'm going to prepare the salad in.
    Prepare other ingredients.

    Combine chicken and all other ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until well-mixed.

    Serve as-is, in a wrap, on bread, or in a bun. Add lettuce if desired. Enjoy!

    Great in a sandwich or alone



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    July 18, 2014

    Cooking with M: What's for Dinner?

    It's time again to do the menu planning for the upcoming week. You might notice a theme for Tuesdays--this day I try to have a green salad as a meatless veggie meal. I also have pasta once a week (usually without meat but this week is an exception) to have another meatless meal and because M2 loves her pasta. It's also easy and makes leftovers for A.

    We also keep fresh fruit in the house for breakfasts, snacks and lunches throughout the week. M2 has fruit for breakfast every day. I base the fruit on what is on sale and looks good at the store. There's also a stash of frozen fruit and some can fruit in case we get in a fruit pinch.

    This week's fruit
    Apples, oranges, bananas, green and black grapes, peaches and nectarines
    Saturday
    Spaghetti and meatballs with side salad
    Sunday
    Whole roast chicken, parsley buttered potatoes and mixed veggies (I picked up a whole chicken when they were on sale, froze it and it's now defrosting)
    Monday
    Chicken and dumplings (I've been craving this and the whole chicken leftovers are great for this)
    Tuesday
    Green salad
    Wednesday
    Grilled cheese and soup
    Thursday
    Steak, baked potatoes and green beans
    Friday
    Leftovers

    July 14, 2014

    Southwestern Taco Salad

    Quick, easy relatively light dinners are an important staple of summer. When we were visiting A's dad a few weeks ago, he introduced us to taco salad. We liked it and decided to make it at home. The problem was, I didn't have the right type of beans and didn't feel like going back out to get them. There were also ears of corn in the fridge that needed to be used up. What's a stay-at-home-mom to do? Why, tweak the recipe and turn it into Southwestern taco salad, of course!

    The finished dish.
    Ingredients
    Tortilla chips
    French dressing
    1 lb. ground beef (I used 93% lean)
    1 can black beans, drained
    Cooking up the yum.
    2 ears of corn or 1 cup of frozen corn
    Shredded cheddar cheese
    Lettuce

    Directions
    1. Brown ground beef in medium skillet.
    2. When ground beef is almost finished, add the can of beans (drained) and corn. Stir together well. Heat until all is cooked. If the corn is frozen, heat it to room temperature in the microwave before adding.
    3. Arrange chips on plate. Pour meat mixture overtop. Add however much cheese and lettuce you'd like then drizzle French Dressing over it all.

    If you don't like the dressing (like me), you can leave it off. A's dad's version uses kidney beans and no corn. It's just as tasty.

    So tasty. Even M2 loves it.
    This is what M2 was doing while Mama put this post together.


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    July 12, 2014

    Back on the Meal Planning Wagon

    Since I've had horrible morning sickness, I've slipped on planning our weekly dinners ahead of time. There just didn't seem to be a point when I was too sick to cook or too disgusted by food to even follow through. The last few weeks I've been doing better so am back in the swing of things. Yesterday, I started putting together a list of our go-to recipes. This list will have a companion "to try" version as I find new recipes to try from the internet and magazines. I have a folder with recipes to try that are torn from magazines. Today, I planned out our weekly menu to share with you.


    Saturday
    Pork stir fry over rice
    Sunday
    Chicken salad
    Monday
    Herb chicken with veggies
    Tuesday
    Green salad
    Wednesday
    Grilled steak with baked potato and veggies
    Thursday
    Leftovers or fettuccini
    Friday
    Mandarin orange chicken with fried rice

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    July 4, 2014

    Happy Fourth of July!

    Drink time under the clear blue sky.
    Mmm burgers and dogs on the grill.
    At our house, we spent the day with the windows wide open as a breeze comes through since it was a beautiful out. I also spent it finishing up the cleaning that didn't get done earlier this week, doing yard sale prep and giving myself a manicure and pedicure. M2 is got a pedicure to match Mama's with her Piggy Paint.
    She's quite excited to have ocean blue toe nails.

    This evening was our cookout with burgers and hotdogs on the new grill. While the meat was heating up, an unknown dog came running into the yard. She was very sweet and friendly. Since she had tags, I was able to figure out where she'd come from. We were about to eat so were going to take her back after, but she was crying and seemed upset (she was trying to get in to get to the cats). M2 was very upset by this so A took her back home on our cat leash. It turns out she's deaf. It's good we found her since she wouldn't have heard someone calling or a car coming down the street.

    M2 eating corn with ketchup on her nose.
    Our outdoor dinner on the deck included macaroni salad, baked beans, corn on the cob and lemonade. A trip to see the fireworks didn't happen since M2 was getting tired and wild. It doesn't matter that we didn't go. It turns out there were fireworks almost in our backyard. M2 LOVED it, pointing and going, "dat! ohhh!" I think next year she'll want to see even more. Now, for the yummy pie.
    One of our kitties and me.

    July 3, 2014

    Fourth of July Peach Crumble Pie

    Now that I'm in the second trimester and have some more energy, the Fourth of July is the perfect time to do some yummy summer cooking. I've been craving homemade peach pie with vanilla ice cream on top, our family recipe macaroni salad and grilled corn on the cob. All of that is in the works, along with grilled cheeseburgers and baked beans. It's my first time making peach pie. Not all taste good (I'm picky), so I'm hoping mine will be delicious. I've scoured recipes and combined a few to give the one below a go. The crust is another recipe I put together and my first time at doing homemade.

    I was going to make the pie day-of, but the peaches I got were so ripe they started splitting on the way home. Rather than letting them go a bit bad over night, I made the pie tonight. Once we cut into it tomorrow, I'll add a picture of the finished product's inside. After it backed, a few pieces of crust broke off so I got a small taste and mmmmm is it good! The crumble got a bit darker than I intended because I accidentally set the oven to 450, but it's not bad at all. I can't wait to eat it! M2 kept peering at it as I made it and got a whole bunch of sliced peaches. Those disappeared FAST! We'll be putting vanilla ice cream on top as well. To me, homemade pie isn't complete without the vanilla ice cream.

    Delicious peach crumble pie
    Ingredients
    Crust
    Dry ingredients ready to mix with peaches
    1 9 in. store bought crust, no top

    Crumble
    1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup flour
    3/4 cup oatmeal (not instant)
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg

    Filling
    6 cups fresh peaches, sliced (about 12 medium peaches)
    1 cup sugar
    Lots of juicy peaches
    1/3 cup flour
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1 tbsp butter, melted

    Directions
    Crumble

    1. Combine all ingredient except butter
    2. Cut butter into dry mixture with pastry blender until it is well mixed

    Filling

    Peaches put into the crust
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
    2. Wash and slice peaches. If you'd like, you can leave the skins on. I did.
    3. Combine dry ingredients
    4. Mix peaches with dry mixture
    5. Spread crust into 9 in. pie plate; follow directions on container to determine any pre-baking; use pie weights to keep crust from bubbling during pre-baking
    6. Add filling
    7. Drizzle a bit of the melted butter on top. Brush the rest on the edge of the crust
    8. Put crumble mixture evenly over top
    9. Cover edges with foil to prevent burning, remove the foil for last 15 minutes of baking. If crumble starts browning too much, cover it with foil also
    10. Bake 30-45 minutes, until crumble is golden and filling bubbles
    Ready to bake


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    July 2, 2014

    BBQ Pulled Pork

    This recipe is a great one for any time as it is so tasty and easy. It's one of the favorites in our house and is great for leftovers. When I made it we froze some so A has an easy-to-grab lunch if nothing else is made. I've been making this for years with different variations. This version is the best. Even better, it's so easy to make in the slow cooker and your house will smell delicious all day.


    Ingredients
    I used a combination of sauces to add
    different flavors. My favorite is Hunt's.
    One pork roast or pork loin. The size depends on how much leftovers (or people you're feeding) that you want. I used about 3.5 lbs.
    Enough Dr. Pepper (I used SodaStream Dr. Pete) to cover pork in slow cooker
    1.5 bottles barbecue sauce (more if you make more pork; you want enough to saturate the pork)

    Directions
    1. Defrost pork and put into slow cooker
    2. Make deep cuts across pork every inch
    3. Cover the pork with Dr. Pepper
    4. Cook on low overnight (about 12 hours) so the soda will break down the pork, add flavor and make it extra moist
    5. Test pork to see if it comes apart easily. If it does, drain pork and pull apart with forks in the pot. If it doesn't, slow cook longer
    6. Add barbecue sauce, enough to thoroughly cover and saturate the pork. Add water to barbecue sauce bottles to
      get out remains of sauce, pour in with pork.
      This also helps keep the pork from burning
    7. Set slow cooker to medium for an additional 8-12 hours
    8. Put finished pulled pork on buns, bread or eat as-is
    Dr. Pepper covered pork

    Pulled and ready for sauce



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    July 1, 2014

    Product Review: Seventh Generation Dish Soap

    I don't know about you, but I am tired of using dish soap that doesn't cut grease, smells bad, costs a fortune (and still doesn't work), leaves an icky film on hands and dishes, and/or takes a ton to clean anything. That's why I decided to try some new dish soaps, like the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day one I reviewed here and now Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid in free & clear. You can get it on Amazon for a good price in 25 oz. bottle packs of 1, 2, or 6. There is even a 50 oz. bottle.


    Rating Out of 10
    Overall: 10
    Scent: 10
    Gentle on Hands: 10
    Cleaning Power: 10
    Cost: 9

    To sum things up quickly, this soap is awesome. It is scent and dye free, hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly. This one 25 fl. oz. bottle has lasted us three months and is still going. I just refilled the soap dispenser today and there is STILL about half a dispenser left. You only need a tiny amount to wash your hands or dishes. Any more, and you end up with way too many bubbles. You just don't need much. That tiny bit cuts through grease and smells easily leaving dishes nice and clean with little effort. It even rinses off quickly without leaving a film.

    I love how gentle it is on my hands. There is no need for a separate hand soap in the kitchen. My hands don't get dried out at all. Nor do they feel slimy or sticky after. This isn't one of those soaps that claim to have no scent then smell icky, it really has no scent at all (and this is coming from a pregnant lady with a sensitive nose). Let me tell ya, when dish soap smells were driving me nuts in the first trimester, this was a lifesaver.

    We end up saving time washing pots, pans and dishes (everything that can't go in or doesn't fit in the dishwasher) since the soap works so well.

    It costs a bit more than cheap brand. As A pointed out, it's worth it since it lasts so long. He is a big fan of this soap as well. We've tried the cheaper soaps, like Ajax, and have to use a ton to clean anything. Thus, Seventh Generation actually saves us money. I'd still like it even more if it cost less, though. I haven't tried any of the scented versions of this soap because I honestly don't think it's needed. The free and clear is awesome.

    Seriously, I can't say enough good things about the Seventh Generation dish soap. There is literally not one negative thing I can think of to say about it. I wholeheartedly suggest you try it for yourself.
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