Friday, March 2, 2018

Chicken Ranch Tacos

One of my dear friends brought these to me after having my second baby. We loved them and have made them multiple times since them! Also, we love easy and healthy crock pot meals. The picture and recipe are from Plain Chicken. Rating: 10/10.


Ingredients.
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 packet Ranch seasoning mix
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Taco shells
  • Toppings (shredded lettuce, cheese, pico de gallo/salsa, sour cream, tomatoes)

Directions.
  1. Put chicken, taco seasoning, Ranch seasoning, and chicken broth in Crock Pot.
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Shred chicken with two forks and place back in the crockpot to soak up the broth. 
  4. Serve in taco shells topped with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes/salsa, and sour cream.

Sugar Cookie Fruit Pizzas (chewy)

These have to be one of the BEST cookies I've ever had. The texture is chewy and soft and the cream cheese frosting puts these over the top. We served them with strawberries, blueberries and pineapple. So good! Picture and recipe from Cooking Classy. Rating: 10/10.


Ingredients.
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yoke
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Fresh fruit of various colors
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 5 Tbsp salted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Instructions.
  1. For the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cream of tartar. Set aside
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter until combined. Mix in egg, then mix in egg yolk and vanilla extract. With the mixer set on low speed slowly and add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  3. Scoop dough out 1 1/2 Tbsp at a time and shape into balls. Trasnfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes (cookies should appear slightly under-baked). Remove from oven and allow to rest several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all the dough has been used up. Once cookies are cool (and just before serving) frost cookies with cream cheese frosting and top with fresh fruit
  4. For the frosting: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream butter then blend in cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.

White Almond Texas Sheet Cake

I'm a huge lover of chocolate sheet cake and decided to give the white sheet cake a shot! I love the almond flavor and this cake is even better (and more moist!) the second day. This recipe is from All Recipes. Rating 10/10.

Ingredients (Cake).
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions (Cake).

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup butter and water to a boil. Remove from heat, and stir in flour, sugar eggs, sour cream, 1 tsp almond extract, salt, and baking soda until smooth. Pour batter in a greased 10x15 inch baking pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven to 20-22 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and tests done. Cool for 20 minutes and spread frosting over warm cake.


Ingredients (frosting).
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Directions (frosting).
  1. Combing 1/2 cup butter and milk in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Mix in sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Spread frosting over warm cake.

Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

I went through a phase of trying so many recipes on Plain Chicken and found many that I really enjoyed! This being one of them. It's an easy, dump in the crockpot and the meal is done for you, kind of meal. Rating:


Ingredients.
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can corn, undrained
  • 1 can Rotel, undrained
  • 1 (1 oz.) package ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 (8 oz) package light cream cheese
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Directions.
  1. Drain and rinse black beans. Place chicken at bottom of pot, then pour out whole can of corn (undrained), rotel, and black beans. Top with seasonings and ranch mix. Stir together. Place cream cheese on top.
  2. Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir cream cheese into chili. Use 2 forks to shred chicken. Stir together and serve,

Note: Can place all ingredients in a freezer bag and freeze for a quick freezer meal later.

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

I have always loved Tomato Soup, so I was excited to find a new version with tortellini! This recipe is so simple and quick to throw together. Picture and recipe are from Plain Chicken. Rating: 10/10


Ingredients.
  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated whole wheat cheese tortellini
  • 2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) tomato soup
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions.
  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, combine the soup, broth, half and half and seasonings. Heat over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tortellini to soup. Stir in cheese.
  3. Sprinkle each serving with additional cheese if desired.


Oven Baked Tacos

My mother-in-law made these for dinner one night and I have been wanting to make them ever since! I love how easy and quick they are to prepare. They make enough to feed a family all at once. The recipe is from Six Sisters. Rating: 10/10.



Ingredients.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 (15 oz) can back beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 (1 oz) package taco seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 12 hard shelled tacos
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Additional Toppings (tomatoes, lettuce, olives, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, etc.)
Directions.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil and add onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until soft. Add beef and taco seasoning, cooking until meat is browned. Add beans and salsa. Mix well and let cook for a couple of minutes so that the flavors can melt and the mixture can thicken.
  3. In a large 9x13 baking pan, line up all the taco shells. Fill each one with a couple of scoops of the beef mixture and pack down into the shell. Repeat until all the shells are filled. Top each taco with shredded cheese.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes (or until all the cheese is melted).
  5. Serve with your favorite taco toppings.

Note: Make sure beef filling doesn't have much liquid before adding it into the taco shells. It makes the shell soften and fall apart if there's too much liquid.

Theme: Snow


Letter of the Week: S

January Themes: My boys (ages 2, 4) go to preschool twice a week, so I planned our activities for the off days - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I printed a monthly chart (link to come) as a way to keep organized and stay on track. However, some weeks we just do activities as we go. Here's the second theme at a glance:



MONDAY:

Letter (Snowflake S): My four loved making these snowflakes! This was definitely a team effort as I taught him how to fold the paper and cut into the snowflake. You can view a paper snowflake tutorial here. My two mostly enjoyed opening the snowflakes I had already cut and ripping them into pieces ;)


Numbers (Snowman Buttons): Both my boys (ages 4, 2) loved counting buttons on snowmen! It could be because after completing each one they earned a mini chocolate chip. My two is really great at counting and one-to-one correspondence, but we're still working on number recognition. I placed two snowmen together and we worked on addition with my four. He thought it was hilarious the snowmen kept adding up to 10. (1+9, 2+8. 3+7, 6+4). You can print the snowmen from Totschooling.


Sensory (Snowmen at Play): As always, we absolutely love sensory play! I mixed baking soda and water for the base (snow!) in our bin today. My two especially loved making balls and squishing them. My four was more interested in making a "perfect snowman" with our Melting Snowman Kit


Gross Motor (Snowball Fight): Throwing, chasing, rough housing. These snowballs were calling our names. I found a set of them in the dollar section at Target over Christmas Time. These are perfect and soft "snowballs" to have a snowball fight. You can find them here on Amazon, but they're much more expensive. Lots of laughing tonight!



WEDNESDAY:

Art (Baked Snowmen): Have you ever made Baked Cotton Balls? I recently heard of the idea and had to give them a shot! The paint is made from flour and water (super easy!) and my boys liked making the snowmen, but LOVED smashing it afterward. Click the link above for a tutorial and recipe!


Outing (Indoor Sledding): Since it rarely snows in Oregon, we had to be creative on our outing this week! I saw this idea of indoor sledding on Pinterest and we decided to give it a try! You'll need a large cardboard box and some packing tape.


Treat (Snowman Donuts & Hot Cocoa): Who doesn't love a good donut and hot cocoa??


Fine Motor (Baked Snow Smash): This was one of our all-time favorite letter activities we've done! I made baked cotton balls (AKA "baked snow") and wrote letters A-Z on top. For my four, I called out a letter sound and he smashed the letter and for my two I showed him a flashcard and he smashed the matching letter. It helped having different colors of baked snow, so my two could more easily find the letter. "The B is Yellow."



FRIDAY: 

Shape (Magnetic Snowflakes): We haven't used these magnetic foam shapes in a long time, but my four especially was really into them! He even requested and played with them an hour afterward for his quiet time. I taught him how to make patterns with the pieces as we identified the shapes. This was a good shape and color review for my two! The magnetic boards are from Lakeshore Learning.



Rhyme (Once There Was a Snowman): We had to do this song with our theme!

Once there was a snowman, snowman, snowman
Once there was a snowman. Tall, tall, tall.
In the snow he melted, melted, melted.
In the snow he melted. Small, small, small.

Science (Melting Snowmen): I bought this "Let it Melt!" snowman kit off Amazon and we used the pieces earlier in the week for our sensory play. Today, we used them for our science activity. We never actually waited for them to melt! But, we did have a lot of fun seeing how far the putty would stretch and making snakes, ghosts and snowmen with the putty. My boys played for quite a while.





Colors (Colored Snow): It is so rare to have snow in Eugene, so we took advantage and colored the snow today! I filled squirt bottles up with water and food coloring (next time I'll do liquid water colors, so it doesn't stain hands... Or faces.) The boys went around the yard for a long time squirting snow wherever they could find it. If you don't have snow, you could fill a bin with cotton balls or crushed ice to spray. You could even spray the suds in a bath tub.


Snow Booklist: And of course, we read often throughout the week. We mostly read before our quiet times each day, but we occasionally read during a meal or random time during the day. I placed these books on hold at our local library a week in advance and we enjoyed reading them this week as we learned about snow:
  • Dream Snow by Eric Carle
  • The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel
  • The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
  • Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz
  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  • Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
  • Snowflake Bently by Jacqueline Martin
  • Snow is My Favorite and My Best by Lauren Child
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Baked Cotton Balls



If you need a fun, easy, creative and different way to play, baked cotton balls are an excellent option! I recently heard of the idea from This Grandma is Fun and my boys and I had a little too much fun playing with them. We are currently learning about SNOW this week, so we formed our cotton balls into a snowman. My four really got into it and I helped my two with his. He mostly loved squeezing the paint between his fingers. My little ones especially loved what we did after our snowmen cooked... Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups water
  • Food Coloring
  • Cotton Balls
  • Baking Sheet
  • Tinfoil
  • Recommended: Plastic Tablecloth from the Dollar Tree

  1. To make the paint: Whisk the flour and water together in a large bowl until there are no lumps. Pour the paint into four separate bowls and add a different color of food coloring into each bowl. 
  2. Place a sheet of tinfoil on a baking sheet and draw an image on the tinfoil with permanent marker. We drew snowmen on ours for the boys to fill with cotton balls (see below). 
  3. When you're ready to play, lay out a plastic tablecloth on the ground. Dip the cotton balls in the paint until they're completely covered and place them on the tinfoil wrapped baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. 





 Before.

 After.

And because my boys love destroying things more than making things, the real fun happened after our snowmen baked. I gave them each a hammer and they pounded their hearts out. 




Our baked cotton balls were such a hit, we made a Baked Cotton Ball Letter Smash. After the cotton balls baked, I wrote letters A-Z with a permanent marker on each one. For my four, I said a letter sound and he smashed the correct letter. For my two, I showed him these amazing flashcards and he found the matching letter to smash! It was easier for him to find the letters with different colored cotton balls. "The B is yellow"




Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork, Cilantro Rice & Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

SWEET PORK.

Before moving to Oregon, my family would go to Cafe Rio on a weekly basis. Something about that sweet pork was oh, so good. Now that we live away, I am always craving Cafe Rio's sweet pork. Now, nothing can exactly compare, but this Copycat Cafe Rio Pork my mom makes is pretty close! And easy to make!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 lbs. Pork
  • 1 16 oz. bottle of salsa
  • 1 can coke (not diet)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
Directions:
  1. Place pork in crock pot and fill it half way up the pork with water. Cook on high for 5 hours.
  2. Drain water. Cut pork into thirds. Mix together sauce ingredients and put on top of pork. Cook an additional 3 hours on high. 
  3. Shred pork with forks. Leave it on low until ready to serve.

This pork tastes delicious in tacos, burritos, quesadillas or salads! 





CILANTRO LIME RICE

(recipe to come)

CREAMY TOMATILLO DRESSING

(recipe to come)

Theme: Valentines


Letter of the Week: V

February Themes: My boys (ages 2, 4) go to preschool twice a week, so I planned our activities for the off days - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I printed a monthly chart (link to come) as a way to keep organized and stay on track. However, some weeks we just do activities as we go. Here's the second week at a glance:



MONDAY:

Letter (V is for Valentine Man): I thought these turned out so cute as we learned about Letter V!



Numbers (Heart Counting): I found these hearts at the Dollar Tree. I wrote numbers 1-10 on them as well as the matching number of dots. My four placed the pom poms on the hearts and my two placed the pom poms on the dots. 


Science & Sorting (Love Potions): Add in a little Love Powder (baking soda) and mix it with Liquid Love (colored baking soda) to make a potion! My boys loved this! You can talk about the colors and watch what happens when you mix two colors together. When we were finished playing, my boys hopped in the tub and helped me wash and sort all the matching pieces together.  


WEDNESDAY:

Art (Valentine Bags): We had a big PARTY at our house for Valentine's Day! Each kid brought Valentine's to share with the other kids. The first station at the party was decorating Valentine Bags. Each child decorated a white lunch bag with markers, heart stickers and heart stamps (all from the Dollar Tree). Make sure to write names on bags. At the end of the party we put all the bags in a line and the kids dropped their Valentine's inside each bag.  




Sensory (Valentine Flubber): The second station at the party was Valentine Flubber! I found the trays, rollers, play dough stampers and play dough scissors all at Lakeshore Learning. The heart cookie cutters are from Target. All the kids loved the Flubber at the party! You better believe my boys have spent HOURS playing with it at home this week. You can get the Flubber Recipe and see other ways to play by clicking the link.



Treat (Heart Cookies): The third station was cookie decorating! 


Gross Motor (Bean Bag Toss): I was planning on making this for the party, but ran out of time! 


FRIDAY: 

Shape (Glitter Hearts): My boys got really into making these Glitter Valentine Hearts! Before starting, we talked about Valentine's and ways we can show love to people. We made a list of all the people we loved and then made a card to give or mail to each one. Mama drew a picture with glue and the boys shook glitter all over the glue. My four was obsessed about a Valentine Balloon with two dogs and a heart we have at home and wanted me to replicate it. When we were done he said he didn't want to give any of them away anymore, because they turned out too cool. ;)



Song/Rhyme (Skinnamarink): We love this action song about love. Click to view.


Fine Motor (Spongy Heart Play): My boys really got into this Valentine's Spongy Heart Play! Who would've thought sponges could be so much fun? I cut hearts out of white and pink sponges and filled the bin with plastic hearts, heart slinkies, heart containers, lemon squeezers and a colander. I also put a second tray out with cups for the boys to squeeze the sponges into. We added pink food coloring into the bin and it was so cool to see the sponges squeeze out pink water into the cups! 


Outing (Heart Attack): We surprised dad by Heart Attacking his office door while he was at lunch. The pink heart are from me, red from my four and pink from my two. I love watching my boys be so sneaky tip toeing into his office. They loved this!



Valentine Booklist: And of course, we read often throughout the week. We mostly read before our quiet times each day, but we occasionally read during a meal or random time during the day. I placed these books on hold at our local library a week in advance and we enjoyed reading them this week as we learned about Valentines:
  • The Biggest Valentine Ever by Steven Kroll
  • Biscuits Valentines Day by Alyssa Capucilli
  • The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond
  • Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart by Jan O'Connor
  • Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse by Laura Numeroff
  • Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson
  • Love Splat by Rob Scotton
  • Valentine Mice! By Bethany Roberts
  • Where is Baby's Valentine? by Karen Kratz
  • Will You Be My Valentine? by Teresa Bateman