Ingredient of the month: Cream of Chicken Soup

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I've started a tradition in our home of "Mexican Monday" which just includes making Mexican food for dinner every Monday. It helps me focus in on what to make instead of having to think through 1000s of recipes to cook for that night. We could probably eat Mexican food 6 days a week (Italian on the other) but at least we have it on Mondays. Ohhh, I love Mondays!

Here's one of our favorite takes a little work but it 100% worth it! The flavor is to die for!

1 1/4 pounds skinned and boned chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans Mexican stewed tomatoes
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fajita seasoning
2 cups half-and-half
9 (5-inch) corn tortillas, cut in half (I use as many as I want)
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Mexican cheese blend
Toppings: sliced green onions, sliced ripe olives, salsa, sour cream

Cook chicken in 1 tablespoon hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; cool and shred chicken (or cook it in your crock pot at the beginning of the month, freeze some and pull it out of the freezer for this...saving you like 20 minutes and extra dirty dishes that your husband will do, of course.)

Saute onion and garlic in remaining 1 tablespoon hot oil until tender. Add red pepper and tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until most of liquid evaporates. Remove from heat, and stir in chicken and green chiles.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in flour and fajita seasoning until mixture is smooth. Cook, whisking constantly 1 minute. Gradually whisk in half-and-half, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly.

Spread 1/2 cup white sauce in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Arrange 6 tortilla halves over sauce. Top with half of chicken mixture and 2/3 cup shredded cheese. Repeat layers once. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce over cheese; top with remaining tortilla halves. Spoon remaining sauce over tortillas. Reserve remaining cheese.

Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and let stand 10 minutes. Serve with desired toppings. Yield: 8 servings.
Taken from Southern Living Easy Entertaining


Black Beans

Here's another great recipe.... very easy. I love doing this because I can buy a 1 lb. bag of black beans for like 1$, cook them, and get 5-6 snack snize ziplocs full of cooked beans. I feel like this is way more economical than buying a can of black beans (which is usually more than we can eat at once) for more than a 1$/can. If we don't use all our beans from our freezer bags, I just pop them back in the freezer. This was a great way to give our little boy baby food. He loved black beans, so I kept really small portions (in ice cube trays) of beans for him. Yummy, and healthy!!

Black Beans
In crock pot combine 6-8 c. liquid, 16 oz. dry black beans. 1T. of each: Oregano, chili powder, garlic, onion salt, chicken stock(I didn't have this, so I didn't add it and they still tasted great), canned tomatoes(I also didn't add this, but I'm going to sometime!), cumin, I didn't add these next two ingredients, only because I didn't have them, and the beans were still delicios! fresh jalapeno, crushed red pepper. Simmer overnight (or, I just put them in my crockpot in the morning and cooked them on low for about 8 hours. At about 6 hours, I started checking them to see if they were done, and stirring them every so often - it did end up being about 8 hours).



I LOVE Mexican food. I've also been really bad at posting recipes lately, sorry, but I've been out of town. So, I decided to post two of my favorites. Anyone who is from or has been to Utah, knows about Cafe Rio, right? Well, I love it, so I like to make Cafe Rio salad all the time, here's a recipe for their rice and their creamy tomatillo salad dressing. We even use the dressing as chip dip, we like it so much! I'm also posting a recipe for my favorite chicken marinade. The recipe says to marinade it then grill it, but I don't have a grill, so I just put the marinade and the chicken in my crockpot, cook it all together, then shred it for tostadas. Most of the time, I double the chicken so I can freeze a bag... this is by far my most favorite way to eat chicken and mexican food!!!!!

Chicken Tostadas

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 to 4 limes)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil (plus more for brushing the tortillas)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 ounces each)
8 small corn tortillas (5 to 6 inches in diameter)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack, or more if desired
1 1/2 cups shredded lettuce
Optional toppings: salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, green onions

2 cups mayonaisse
2 cups sour cream
10 sprigs of cilantro
3 tomatillos (green tomatoes looking things. They have a husk on them, you just peel it off, half the tomato and throw it in the blender)
2 green onions (washed and chopped)
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper (seeds and all - if you like it spicy. Sometimes I leave this out completely, or I add a can of green chilis)
juice of 1 lime
1 or 2 tsp. of salt (depends on how much salt you like)

Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Dressing lasts for 2 weeks in refrigerator.

Cafe Rio Rice:
4 tbls butter
2 1/2 cups rice
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp salt
juice of 4 small limes or 4 tbls lime juice
4 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin

Put in a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer until rice is done. I had to add a little more water, and at the very end, I take it off the burner and I put the lid on to let it steam a little, that seems to make it just right. We eat this with any mexican food, put it on salad, and eat it with our tostadas.

Buen Provecho!


Putting God First

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we put a lot of emphasis on our families. We know that families are central to the Plan of Happiness that our Heavenly Father created. We strive to nurture our relationship with our husbands and children knowing that family relationships are indeed eternal. I'm grateful for this knowledge. But I fear sometimes we get absorbed in our nurturing of those around us and we neglect to nurture our individual and unique relationship with our Father in Heaven. As his daughters (or sons, if any men actually read this blog!!) we have been taught often that the first commandment is "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." We know that God is supposed to come first in our lives and that through that relationship we will be able to better nurture our families and the other aspects of our lives.

With God being such a defining role in our lives as mommies, I wonder how we strive to put him first in our lives. We are mothers 24 hours a do we make time to nurture our relationship with our Heavenly Father when our to-do lists are filled with laundry, cooking, bath time, soccer practice, dance class, etc.? Do you wake up before the kids to sneak in scripture study? How do you fill your spiritual reservoir? What do you do to put God first in your life?


The Truth Comes Out!

Okay, many of you guessed it...#4 is my lie, but only depending on timing. Otherwise, they're all true!
1. The summer after high school I worked at Cedar Point amusement park near Toledo, Ohio, and I was Sister Bear in their Berenstain Bear Country. It was the best job I ever had--I got paid incredibly great money to get hugged by kids all day!
2. It took me four years to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), and my oldest is four years old! I've totally struggled with this, off and on, but a few months ago I talked to my mission president about it (he just finished his PhD in marriage and family), and he gave me a huge reality check as well as sending me a bunch of articles reinforcing the fact that diapers and dishes are NOT the fulfilling part of being a SAHM. It's the precious moments that happen when we least expect it that make this job fulfilling, and I just needed to focus on the positive.
3. I love thunderstorms. I really do! Even with all the craziness that comes with them in MN, I still find them kind of romantic, somehow. I think it started when I took an Art in India class in college and learned that when thunderstorms are depicted in Indian art, they're a symbol of romantic love.
4. I kissed my ex-boyfriend while my husband was in the other room. I really did this, but it was the night before my first date with Brian (my hubby), so I was still totally legal (if possibly a bit of a hussy) in doing that. For the record, Brian and I totally laugh about it now. Actually, we laughed about it then, too, oddly enough! Apparently, we really were always meant to be together! :)
5. The summer before I met Brian (in between my two years of my masters degree), I traveled to Europe. I met my friend in Paris and watched the Bastille Day fireworks next to the Eiffel Tower, then we went to Greece to help one of my undergrad professors with measuring some recently discovered ancient theatres (I got my MA in theatre history), then we stopped in Oxford and London for some sightseeing before I started my summer job managing a theatre venue at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. So, I hit four countries in six weeks...I wish I could've seen more, but I'm so glad I traveled so much before settling down!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich Loaf

This is one of my husbands favorites. And it's so easy! I got this recipe from a friend.

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich Loaf
1 loaf French bread
1 red pepper cut in thin strips
1/2 ld thinly sliced deli roast beef
Garlic powder
1/2 cup cheese (we usually use mozzarella)
Heat oven to 375. Slice bread in half and spread both sides with butter and sprinkle with garlic powder. Layer bottom loaf with peppers, roast beef, and cheese. Top with the top of loaf. Wrap tightly in tin foil. Bake for 15-20 min.



Okay so my daughter is turning 3 on the 29th and we are having a dinner party with my sister's family and we even have a special guest coming...Cinderella!!! Mikelle is so excited and she can't wait. She wants hot dogs, so unprincessish. What are some great Princessish sides to go with it? I thought fruit wands (grapes on a steak skewer with a star shaped pineapple on top), and chocolate covered strawberries, with a princess cake for desert. Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas on the matter?


Okay so I have been trying to rattle my brain and figure out what my husband loves to eat and well, he enjoys hamburgers, I don't know that they are his favorite but he sure makes a good one.

Grill the meat, adding some crushed red pepper, salt and pepper along with liquid smoke, just a little of each, while meat is grilling.

Place meat on a bun with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, avacado spicey brown mustard, and ketchup.



It's a Mess.... AGAIN!

I love this picture because this is how I feel every day! Baby in one arm and cleaning up toys with the other.
To me, the most annoying part about housework is that once you finish a job it only takes a couple minutes before it starts getting messed up again. Especially picking up after kids!
So the question this week is how do you manage clutter and keep your place clean? Especially if you live in a small place where it gets cluttered really fast when the kids start getting toys out.
And what are your tricks for getting your kids to clean up after themselves?


Orange Julius

1 c water
1 c milk
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz concentrated orange juice
6-8 ice cubes

Put all ingredients into blender. Mix well and serve.

Just lyin' around...

Okay, sorry I've been MIA, ladies (and thanks to Cassi for catching me up on the game)! Here are my five lies:
1. I once spent a summer dressed as Sister Bear from The Berenstain Bears.
2. It took me four years to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom.
3. I love thunderstorms.
4. I kissed my ex-boyfriend while my husband was in the other room.
5. I've traveled to four countries in six weeks.


Nobody guessed it

  1. TRUE I worked at a bungee jump for a year and a half. Before we could get certified we had to jump 25 times. Then before every shift we had to jump 5 times and if it was slow they asked us to jump to draw attention to it. It was one of the best jobs I ever had I loved it.
  2. TRUE I am a huge sports girl. I love the Lakers and the Angels. When I wake up in the morning the first thing I watch is sportscenter to see whats going on with my teams. I am so happy that the Lakers beat the Jazz.
  3. TRUE I did marry my dad's best friend. They work on the railroad together and they also golf together. My dad didn't want us to start dating because he was afraid that if it didn't work out that he would lose a friend.
  4. FALSE I have never hiked the Grand Canyon and I never will. I am afraid of Cliffs heights I can handle but not cliffs.
  5. TRUE I do not like sweets. I would much rather have a baked potato and a steak.


Finally, the TRUTH!

1. I had 2 kids by the time I was 20.
TRUE. Yup, I was a teenage mother. So embarrassing, but I got married at 18, just before my 19th birthday, and pregnant just 5 months later. My twins were born 2 months prematurely so they arrived just before my 20th birthday and 1st wedding anniversary. Crazy!

2. I am an amateur chicken farmer.
TRUE. I have 6 pet chickens that I raise for eggs. We are currently getting about 3 eggs a day and in another month, should be getting 5-6 daily! I am a farm girl at heart.

3. My husband came to my high school graduation.
TRUE, although I was a bit tricky here. I graduated a semester early from high school and went immediately to the local community college where I met my husband. His little brother was also in my graduating class and he went to the ceremony to support us both. He was there, but only my boyfriend at the time. But now that he's my husband, I can say he went to my graduation.

4. I once flashed my boobies at my date.
FALSE. I didn't flash my date! Who do you think I am?! I flashed his friend! Ok, we were on a group date and I had to climb over a chain link fence and a friend of my date told a joke and I started laughing and couldn't get myself over the top of the fence. So I started to lower myself and the guy thought I was falling and pulled me over the top, hooking my shirt and bra on the pointy part of the fence. I fell down and my shirt went up and my bra broke apart and the lucky guy got a face full. My date didn't get a peek, he was behind me. Oh, and I couldn't fix my bra and there was a gaping hole in my shirt so I had to go home and change.
BTW, just a couple months later, my date proposed, and I married him!

5. I can touch my elbows behind my back.
TRUE. Seriously, I can really do that! I am really flexible and can even still do the splits.

That's me!

Strawberry Lemonade

Don't have hundreds of lemons? Try this quick drink for parties.

2 cans frozen Minute Maid lemonade concentrate
1 2-liter bottle club soda, chilled
1 12-oz can frozen sweetened strawberries, slightly thawed
¼ cup strawberry syrup
Lemon slices for garnish

1. In a large pitcher, dissolve frozen lemonade with 4 cans cold water and 2 cans club soda. When dissolved, pour into large punch bowl.
2. Add 2 large scoops frozen strawberries, or more or less as desired.
3. Add strawberry syrup and ice in desired quantities.
4. Stir and add lemon slices to float as a garnish.
5. As punch sits, add more club soda as needed.

Father's Day

Father's Day is this Sunday! A great time to celebrate our great Fathers and Husbands. I am wondering what everyone is doing for the men in their lives. For my husband I was thinking about making him a nice dinner, something he really likes. As for a gift...I am not sure yet. Last year we had just moved so I got him 2 books. One was a trail book for the Shenandoah National Park (which is really close to our new house) and a book of Virginia Birds (he has some nice binoculars). These were a hit and we have used both books quite a bit.
Some girls in my ward got together yesterday and their kids made a Father's Day craft but we couldn't make it. I thought that was a fun idea. So what do you have up your sleeves, I love all of your ideas!


Punishment and Rewards

Punishment is such a tricky thing. Some forms work for some kids but not others. We've found with our oldest that counting to 3 and then timeout works best, but with our daughter that isn't as affective.
And of course sometimes the best way to get your child to do something is by rewarding their good behavior... or bribing them to do something. Here the rewards always end up being a sugary treat.
So 2 questions this week. First, what forms of punishment work best for your kids? And second, what rewards do you use that won't give your kids cavities?


My favorite side dish

Okay, I have been a blogging slacker. We've been busy, and as I write this, I am out of town. But I still like to check the blog and see what's new, so I thought while I had a moment I would give you my favorite side dish. I love making salads! I think you can make them go with almost any meal, and I especially like them with all the "fixin's" So, here's my favorite salad:

Poppy Seed Salad:

Head of romaine lettuce
A little iceberg lettuce (if you don't have both kinds of lettuce, this salad still works with just one kind, having both just adds a little something, I also like adding a little baby spinach if I have it)
A little red or green onion, finely diced
A little crumbled bacon (or at my house, a lot of crumbled bacon!)
grated swiss cheese
a handful of green peas (I know this sounds weird, but it really is good, and it is a great way to add another veggie serving to your daily diet)
1/2 an apple, finely diced

Mix is all together and then add poppy seed dressing. My favorite Poppy Seed dressing is Brianna's, but Target sells and Archer Farms brand that is pretty comparable. I like to add the dressing to the whole salad when I serve groups, otherwise, we serve it individually so we don't get soggy leftovers. If you add the dressing to the salad, just go easy, you don't want to over due it. I love this salad, we eat it many times a week!! Enjoy!~


Simple Sides

Here are a couple of our favorite simple sides:

Cool Whip Jello
8 oz container cool whip
small container cottage cheese
1/2 pkg (small box) jello, your choice of flavor
Mix together cottage cheese and cool whip and jello. I usually add some pineapple chunks too.

Roasted Potatoes
This recipe is usually on the back of Lipton Onion Soup boxes.
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup
4 medium potatoes cut into bite size chunks
1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients in greased 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes or until potatoes are golden, stir occasionally.

Little Lies

Ok, I just realized how boring and ordinary my life has been! But out of sheer force, I've come up with a few things about myself.

1. I had 2 kids before my 20th birthday.

2. I am an amateur chicken farmer.

3. My husband came to my high school graduation.

4. I once flashed my boobies at my date.

5. I can touch my elbows together behind my back.

(how many of you just tried that last one??)


Find the Lie about Letti

  1. I have bungee jumped too many times to count probably close to 700 times.
  2. I love to watch sportscenter and am a huge Angels and Laker fan and I never miss a game on TV.
  3. I married my Dad's best friend.
  4. I have hiked the Grand Canyon 2 times.
  5. I do not like sweets.

Here Comes The Truth

I am sorry I am kinda behind on this, I have been in the process of moving, and now have my computer set up!

1. I didn't attend my High School graduation. TRUE, I did not attend my high school graduation. I moved my senior year (my third high school) and from day one I was ready to graduate. I graduated 'early' and started Ricks College the end of May 1998, thus missing my commencement. Do I regret it? A little, I never 'walked', or wore a cap and gown, or had a really big party. But I loved my summer at Ricks and it was great to be around so many awesome LDS kids (I was the only member in my high school).

2. I've trekked through the Tetons with a llama. TRUE. My freshman year of college I did a program with Ricks College where we lived at the Outdoor Learning Center in Tetonia, Idaho. Part of that program was a week long hike in the Tetons with none other, but llamas. We would pack the llamas with all our stuff (ie: tents, food, etc.) so we didn't have to worry about all the weight. llamas are weird animals, lets just leave it at that. It was a great experience, very physically challenging, but a great memory.

3. I've never dyed my hair. TRUE. I have virgin hair. I am starting to go grey around my face so I think I might take the plunge and turn in my hair v-card in July and get some highlights.

4. I was kissed multiple times on my mission. TRUE...and no it was not by my zone leader who is now my husband!;) I always told my companions that I was going to stand up at my homecoming talk and say that I got more action on my mission then off. I didn't say that, but it might be true! Italy and Malta are very touchy feely places, and there were many times that before I could do anything about it, a young man would pull me in and kiss me. I also had a scary experience with an Arab guy in my first city, and without going into too many details, I will say that he kissed me multiple times. I will also say that I am grateful for those Nephite Warriors who were assigned to me that day.

5. I was supposed to be a twin. LIE! I wasn't supposed to be a twin, but I have always wanted to be one! I had a little imaginary twin sister when I was little named Rebecca. I would pretend play that we were at camp together, just like the twins on the Parent Trap.

I now tag Letti! Have fun!


Buying in Bulk

I know a lot of people have talked about shopping at Costco/Sams and buying in bulk. Buying in bulk usually saves money in the end as long as you're buying things that you'll use all of before they go bad. So I thought a great question would be... what do you buy in bulk?

Mexican Rice

This is a tasty Mexican rice, not Spanish rice. There's no tomato sauce in this. It's more fresh Mex than your typical Mexican food restaurant side. It's very tasty in burritos with chicken or beef or beans. Has lots of flavor.

1 cup long grain white rice
1 Tbsp oil
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ onion, finely chopped
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cube chicken bouillon
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp ground cumin
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

1. In a medium sauce pan, brown rice in oil over medium heat till golden. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
2. Stir in onion, jalapeno and tomato. Season with bouillon cube, salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro and garlic.
3. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, on low for about 20 minutes or unil rice is cooked.

Serves 8

The TRUTH about Heathere

1. I have shot a school teacher point-blank in the face with a rubber band.
I HAVE shot a teacher in the face with a rubber band. In 6th grade we had a substitute teacher and we were joking around. I held a loaded rubber band up to his face and he said “go ahead, I dare you to do it”, and so I did it. I promptly got in school suspension and detention. Then when the real teacher came back I got in trouble a second time when she found out. Later on in I think history class we were studying government and I found out that this was double jeopardy and should not have happened.
2. I once peed my pants as an adult while grocery shopping
I HAVE peed my pants as an adult. Two years ago, when I was about 8 months pregnant with Lijah, Jason and I went to the grocery store. When we got there I had to go REALLY bad and I could not find the bathroom. When I finally saw the bathroom in sight my brain told my bladder that it was time to let it go….and so it did. Then I had to finish shopping in my peed in pants!
3. I inherited a love of puzzle magazines from my mother.
I DO love puzzle magazines. When I was little my mom was always at the kitchen table with a Dell or Penny Press puzzle book. Every free second I get you can probably find me doing a puzzle in one of my many puzzle magazines. If you ever feel the need to get me a gift puzzle magazines are ALWAYS welcomed!
4. I once had a man with a foot fetish stalk me.
This was my lie. However, I had a picture of my feet that I had posted on my Flickr site (this one: and a man made a comment that I had beautiful toes. When I looked at this man’s site he had all kinds of pictures of feet and had other pictures of feet as his favorite photos. So he didn’t really stalk me – but he could have been a potential stalker.
5. I have a sweet little boy named Clark swimming in my belly.
Yes, I do have a sweet little boy named Clark Capel Willoughby in my belly – joining us at the end of September.

Erika – you’re tagged next!