Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BBQ Chicken Nachos

Wow. These last two weeks have been BUSY. Much packing. Much driving. Much cheerleading. Much National Championship winning!

I'm so proud of this little lady! If you didn't know, my daughter has been an allstar cheerleader for going on 7 years now. But, this weekend at Jamfest Super Nationals was her first National Championship win. Except to sleep, this girl has not taken that jacket off since she won it! Competition season isn't over yet, though... a couple more to go.

During competition season... cheerleading is a way of life. Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Cheer. So, on top of having a 5 week old baby... our time is also consumed with cheer practices nearly every night. Yet another reason to simplify meal time!

Friday night is usually cheer-free, and it's usually designated for family time. You can usually find us eating around the coffee table in the living room, watching a movie or playing games. So, "serve yourself" or "family platter" meals are usually the norm. We've done fondue, hummus platters, build your own tacos... but, one of our favorites is BBQ chicken nachos! Just in time for your Super Bowl party! (It's also a wonderfully sneaky way to slip your kids some veggies.)

Look at all that melty, cheesy, chocked-full-of-veggies goodness! You can't even see the chips. Hint: you might want a fork to dig into this deliciousness. This recipe was born out of a craving for a discontinued menu item at Smokey Bones. When I was pregnant with my eldest son, it was a dish that satiated many a pregnancy craving. Then... they discontinued it. And, I thought, "BBQ chicken nachos? Simple enough. I can just do this myself!" And, so I have. For years now.

One of the great things about this recipe is that you can toss all of the BBQ chicken fixin's in the crockpot in the morning, let it cook all day, shred the chicken when you're ready for dinner, assemble your nachos, and pop them in the oven in record time. Very simple. Much yum!

BBQ Chicken Nachos

For the chicken:
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C of your favorite BBQ sauce
1/4 C Italian dressing
1/4 C brown sugar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

For nachos:
1 bag tortilla chips
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
12 oz shredded cheddar cheese
3 green onions, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, large dice
1 can sliced black olives, drained
Pickled jalapeƱos (optional)
Salsa & sour cream for serving

Lightly season chicken breasts with salt & pepper, place in crockpot. In a mixing bowl, combine BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce; whisk until well-mixed. Pour over chicken, cover, and cook in crockpot on high for 3-4 hours. Using two forks, shred chicken while still in crockpot so that it mixes with all of the sauce. 

Preheat oven to 350*. Begin to assemble nachos... start with covering a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Spread tortilla chips in an even layer across the baking sheet. Top with shredded chicken. I like quite a bit of chicken. You want some of it's sweetness in every crunch nacho bite. My serving looks like this...

There will be plenty of chicken left-over. Not to worry... it makes great Sloppy Chicks (like Sloppy Joe's but with chicken). So, be sure you have some of your favorite sandwich buns on-hand! 

On with the nachos... sprinkle the black beans over the chicken layer. Top beans and chicken with shredded cheese. Then, sprinkle with green onions, tomatoes, and black olives. Using a fork to retrieve them from the jar, place your jalapeƱos on top of the nachos. Use as few or as many as you like. We usually just put them on half of the nachos because the kids don't like them. So, they have their half spice-free while the adults can enjoy the heat. 

Put the nachos in the oven, and cook for 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream and salsa!

This really is a simple, delicious, and fun recipe. The kids always look forward to nacho night around here!

Now, if you'll excuse me... I have to get these two little guys down for a nap so I can get to crafting. I have a fun project involving a papier mache deer's head, Modge Podge, fabric, and LOTS of glitter to share later this week. Stay tuned!

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

my latest crafting addiction

Two crafts that I won't even attempt: sewing and anything that involves yarn. Ever since an ill-fated home economics project back in 7th grade that involved sewing pillows in the shape of our initials, the sewing machine and I have never made amends. I always see beautiful quilts sprinkled throughout my Instagram feed. I'm envious. I wish I was blessed with that brand of crafty skills. Alas, I will have to settle for paying top dollar on Etsy if any quilts will be making their way into my house!

Another crafting medium that isn't my friend? Yarn arts. I even have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to it: "Holly Wishes She Knew How to Crochet." She does. There is no shortage of ADORABLE crocheting projects. But, knitting? Crocheting? Totally not my skill set. So, when I first saw the weaving trend emerging, I was skeptical. But, after skimming through a tutorial or two, I figured it seemed doable. And, it was!

I am super-proud of his wall-hanging! It was crafted as part of the package for my Crafty Valentine Swap partner. A few things about weaving... 

1. It's easy. Like REALLY easy. As I said... yarn crafts = not. my. thing. So, trust and believe... If I can do this, SO CAN YOU!

2. It's what I like to call a "mindless craft." One of those crafts that you can whittle away at while catching up with your DVR. Or, you know, in between endless feedings of a 4 week old little fella'. Kinda' like cross-stitching. Those kinds of crafts are my best friends right about now. And, when you're working with the simple over-under weave stitch all the way across the loom, using the shed and shuttle makes everything even MORE mindless.

3. It's fast. It only took me about a week to finish this. But, there was lots of laundry-doing, baby feeding, house cleaning, doctor visiting, and homework helping in that week. I'd say in total, this thing took me MAYBE 5 hours total. The most time-consuming was working on the heart, and figuring out the stitch-count for it.

4. It's more diverse than you think. You can take it way beyond just the simple over-and-under basic weaving. You can add shapes, and design elements (like the heart on mine). There are different stitches you can try. Fringe. Soumak Stitch. Rya knots. Those are just a few. Vary your yarns. That are some many different textures, and thicknesses that you can work with! There are more fun samples and idea on my weaving board on Pinterest.

I'm not going to give you a tutorial on it. Rachel does an excellent job of it here. There's also a great tutorial booklet that comes with the LapLoom. This is the one that my mom got me for Christmas. I recommend buying extra heavy warp thread. This is what you'll use to string up the base on you loom. And, I would suggest a Wonderwand. I don't have one. I just used my fingers to push the weft down as you move along on your woven piece. Or you could use a kitchen fork. But, I will be purchasing a Wonderwand when pay day rolls around. 

Oh, and I almost forgot!

5. It's SO addicting!

So, if one of your New Year's resolutions was to learn a new craft (or even if you already have a million crafting addictions, and really don't need to add another to your repertoire)... weaving just might be your next favorite thing! 

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Burger and Fries Soup

I have a hard time swallowing the whole "rest and take it easy" prescription. It usually takes landing in the ER, like yesterday (mastitis), to get me to slow down. And, even that only seems to work for a couple of days. That being said, I had every intention of being the ultimate pregnancy-prepper this time around so that I COULD finally attempt to follow said advice BEFORE I landed in the doctor's office. The house would be cleaned spotless. Christmas would have been wrapped neatly under the tree. And, I would have a freezer full of meals ready for the Mr. to just reheat in the oven.

Bits and pieces of those goals materialized. Sadly, the freezer full of food did not. So, in the aftermath of adding a fifth child to our brood, I have been in search of some quick, easy recipes that don't sacrifice the yumminess factor. Here's a recipe that I threw together in no time flat that shot straight to the top of the charts on the list of the Mr.'s favorite meals.

Burger and Fries Soup

1 lb mild Italian ground sausage
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 1/2 C whole milk
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (10 oz) can original Ro*Tel, drained
1 1/2 C Water
1 Tbs beef bouillon granules
12 oz jalapeno Velveeta, cubed
6 pieces of bacon, cooked & crumbled
A couple of slices of artisan bread or French bread, cubed (for crouton topping)
Shredded medium cheddar for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350*. On a baking sheet, place the cubed bread (I prefer Whole Foods black pepper parmesan bread). Put in the oven for 5-10 minutes until toasted, and golden. Remove from oven; set aside.

In a large stock pot, over medium heat, brown sausage along with the onion 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute longer. Add flour; stir until blended. Gradually add milk, stirring to combine. Add potatoes, Ro*Tel, water, and bouillon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Then, add Velveeta, stirring until melted. 

Serve topped with bacon, cheese, and toasted croutons.

This recipe is so hearty, flavorful, and with just enough spice to clear out those stuffy noses riddled with winter colds. It is one of the best soups I've ever made, and oh-so-easy! 

Here are a couple of Pinterest finds that we've tried over the last couple of weeks that were also home-runs with even the pickiest of kiddos around here...

This Buffalo Chicken Chili is a Crock-Pot recipe. My family recipe chili is just too spicy for the kids. But, this new spin on chili has just enough spice to satisfy the adults while still making it palatable for the younger set. And, the blue cheese crumbles on top just seal the deal!

Cheryl's Fancy Pants Chicken might have a silly name, but this casserole of sorts has a very serious mouthwatering factor. I could eat this for days on end, and it will definitely make it into our regular rotation of favorite meals. Chicken. Mushrooms. Cheese. Prosciutto. Spinach. YUM. Plus, it's of the throw-it-in-a-baking-dish-and-it's-done simplistic meals variety.

So, if you find yourself in need of some quick meals... you really don't need to resort to racing to the closest McDonald's, or phoning in your 3rd pizza delivery order of the week. Simple, yet delicious meals are totally feasible, and right at your fingertips! Bon appetite!

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Radio Silence

Wow. The last 3 weeks have flown by. I had great a list of holiday posts, and projects that I wanted to tackle. But, then this little guy came along...
And, the world just stopped spinning for a while. Even with 3 other kids, it always seems to be forgotten how everything changes with a new baby in the house. We're soaking in every minute of it. 

Dixon Reece Loyd arrived on December 14 at 10:03 am. He was a big boy at 8 lbs 14 oz, and 20". The doctor and nurses kept remarking how big his was. But, he still seemed so tiny to me. In retrospect, I wonder just how tiny the other 3 were since he was a giant by comparison. 

And, I still can't get over how much he looks like his older brother, Dallas. That's Dallas on the left, and Dixon on the right. 
All of my kids were born early, even if only by a few days. I never made it to my due date. But, Dixon held on until the bitter end, and then some! He was actually due on December 12th. But, that day came and went. No baby. I was scheduled for an induction on December 19th unless he was born before that. 

The morning of December 14th started off like any other. I woke up, had an irregular contraction here and there. Nothing regular. Nothing strong or painful. The Mr. and I decided that we would go out, and run a few errands. Get some last minute Christmas things, and groceries before the baby was born. But, first... a bath. I wasn't in the bath for more than 5 minutes when I felt/heard a loud "pop." My water had broken. It was 9:15 am. Remember this. 9:15.

That was also a first for me. With all 3 of my other kids, my water never spontaneously ruptured. The doctors always had to break it in the hospital. So, I immediately got out, and told my husband that we needed to go to the hospital. Now. Still... no contractions. 
As luck, or lack thereof, would have it... everyone that we had lined up to take the 3 older kids was out of town. Because, of course, Dixon would be born on the ONE day in December that my daughter, Hazel, had a cheerleading competition. At least we had the common sense not to attempt to drive to Lexington for that one, and sent her on her way with friends. With no other options, Bobby ran next door, and asked the neighbors if the boys could stay there until everyone else got back into town. Even if it had only taken him 2 minutes to go over there... it was 2 minutes too long. 

I've had enough kids to know how things go, and this wasn't going well. The contractions started while Bobby was next door. And, they never stopped. No every 5 minutes. No every 2 minutes. It was one NON. STOP. CONTRACTION. 

By the time Bobby got back, and got me down to the car... I knew there was no way we were making that 30-40 minute drive to the hospital at Ft. Campbell. In fact, I couldn't even get in the car to get to the hospital down the road. Call 911. Please. 

At this point, I was seriously concerned that I was going to give birth underneath our carport. The ambulance couldn't get there soon enough. When it finally did... those poor EMT's. Two men. I was in so much pain, I could hardly catch my breath, let alone answer any of their questions. I kept telling them that I needed to push. With sweat pouring down his brow, the one unfortunate gentleman that got tasked with riding in the back with me kept begging, "Please don't. We're almost to the hospital." 

We got to the hospital at 9:55. Dixon was born at 10:03. 
No epidural. No pain medication whatsoever. They didn't even have time to give me an IV or hook me up to fetal monitors. Pretty much my worst nightmare of a birthing scenario. I have always been in awe of all of my friends that had natural births at home. I could never do that. No way. Except that, as it turns out, I COULD. And, I did. And, it was incredibly empowering.

From start to finish: less than an hour of labor. None of the nurses believed that's how it went. I'm not even sure the doctor did. Surely I had contractions for a while longer than I thought. Surely, my water broke earlier than it did. Surely it took us longer to get to the hospital than we thought. But, no. Only Bobby and I know that it truly DID go down like that. 48 minutes. That's all it took. 
As it turns out... it's called precipitous labor. Labor that is complete in 3 hours or less. It's rare. Only 3% of pregnancies result in it. And, only 1% result in labor that is complete in an hour or less. Google is your friend. At least I know I'm not crazy now. And, that there weren't hours of contractions that I had somehow missed. Or that I hadn't lost count of hours from the time my water broke until I made it to the hospital. And, now I know why it has been nearly 3 weeks, and I'm still in WAY more pain, and finding it much more difficult to get around than at this point postpartum with my other 3 kids. Precipitous labor puts your body through the wringer. Bodies aren't meant to go through labor that quickly. And, mine will be paying for it for a while longer.

So, we're just taking it easy around here. My family is still on vacation until the 5th. Things will get back to their regularly scheduled programming around here at that time. Until then, I'm going to relish in a few more days of this...
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