Friday, October 17, 2014

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

The first time I ate king ranch chicken casserole was at Moonshine's Sunday brunch a couple of years ago on our babymoon to Austin, TX. While browsing Pinterest recently, I came across a few recipes which reminded me of this yummy dish. There are several variations out there but I eventually landed on one and made several adaptations. Here is my rendition of king ranch chicken casserole. It was a big hit at our house this week! 

Recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

1 small yellow onion
1/2 c Mezzetta roasted bell peppers
1 can Ro*Tel original diced tomatoes & green chiles, undrained
4 cloves of garlic
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 T Mexican spice mixture*
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 bag thick corn tortilla chips
1 bag (2 c) shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Place (roughly chopped) onion, bell peppers, undrained can of Ro*Tel, and garlic cloves into food processor and pulse until thoroughly chopped. In a large mixing bowl, combine chopped veggies with cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, and Mexican spice mixture. Add cubed raw chicken breast to the mixture. (If you have time, I found that letting the chicken and soup mixture marinate for a few hours in the fridge before assembling the casserole makes for really juicy flavorful chicken.) Line buttered 9x13 casserole dish with tortilla chips, top chips with chicken mixture, then top chicken mixture with 1 cup of Mexican cheese. Repeat chip, chicken mixture, and cheese layers once more. Lastly, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of Mexican cheese. Bake uncovered at 350ºF for 45-55 minutes. Serve over roughly crushed corn tortilla chips and top with sour cream and guacamole.

*I keep a container of this Mexican spice mixture on hand at all times and use it in lieu of store bought taco seasoning packets. It can be used not only for tacos but it works great for fajitas, chili, or as a rub for roasted chicken/turkey/pork.

1 T chili powder
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 t sea salt
1 t black pepper
1 t thyme
1/2 t white pepper
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion powder
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t cayenne pepper

Mix spices together and keep in airtight container.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Playroom Organization

I put off the purchase of organizational furniture for the kids' playroom for nearly an entire year. I dragged my feet partially because I just couldn't decide on what pieces I wanted to use, and partially because I wanted to avoid the expense. But with the accumulation of more and more toys and books, I realized I'd better do something about our current system, or lack there of.

I decided on 2 putty colored heavy duty commerical steel bookcases with casters and 1 putty colored heavy duty commercial steel library cart with casters (aka book truck). I love the idea that these pieces are mobile (easy to rearrange) and will hopefully be useful for many years to come after playroom days are gone. (Sometimes I think way too long term.) One thing that sold me on the library cart was a review I read from a mom who said her school aged kids pile their books and homework on it to clear off the kitchen table to make room for dinner. The cart can then be rolled out of the way or off to a kid's room. For now, we will just use it as a book shelf for our most used books and toys.

To add some color and further storage for smaller toys, I decided on 6 colorful striped cube bins to go on the lower shelves of the bookcases.  Now I'm just impatiently waiting on everything to be delivered so I can finally get our playroom better organized!

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

8 Methods to Save Money at Target

I am in no way an extreme coupon queen (with regard to grocery shopping). In fact, more often than not I clip coupons with good intentions, they get lost in a pile on the kitchen counter, and I completely forget about them when I go grocery shopping. But I LOVE discounts and deals (who doesn't?) and most of what I purchase is always on some sort of "sale." I am also an avid price comparer, especially on big purchases. Although I've been a Target shopper for as long as I can remember, I have just recently begun utilizing multiple cost saving methods when shopping at Target. I'm sure these methods are old news and already common practice for some, but they are relatively new to my Target shopping routine. 
1.) Mobile Coupons: Text "COUPON" to 827438 to receive mobile coupons. From time to time there are different words you can text to get other offers. For example, if you text "FOOD" (which is a reoccurring and current offer) to 827438, you will receive a link via text message for $10 off a grocery purchase of $50 or more (some exclusions apply). Target is really good about advertising these deals via signage around the store and in their Sunday circulars/weekly ads.
2.) Target App: Download and use the Target app to view the mobile coupon barcode(s) that you received via text message. You can also find other mobile coupons under the "Deals & Coupons" portion of the Target app. Remember to have the cashier scan your barcode(s) straight from the Target app after all your merchandise has been scanned.
3.) Store Coupons: Visit to print and clip even more store coupons. Some coupons found here are the same as the mobile coupons found on the Target app, but some are different. 
4.) Manufacturer Coupons: You can (obviously) use manufacturer coupons at Target. What's great about this is you can stack them with Target promotions and/or Target's store coupons.
5.) Cartwheel App: Download and use Target's Cartwheel app. Search current offers within the app, add them to your Cartwheel cart, and have the cashier scan the barcode off your mobile device after all your merchandise has been scanned (the single Cartwheel barcode contains all of your Cartwheel offers). This can/should be used in conjunction with your other mobile and printed/paper coupons. Because using Cartwheel can be kind of overwhelming, here is a great Cartwheel tutorial that helps break it down for beginners.
6.) REDcard: Apply for and use a Target REDcard. I applied for the debit version of the REDcard because I didn't want to open a credit card. This saves me 5% off EVERY purchase, gets me free shipping on purchases (non REDcard holders have to spend a minimum of $50 to get free shipping online and even then some items don't qualify), and provides me with 30 extra days to make a return. Too bad I didn't open one of these sooner. I've shopped at Target A LOT over the years and I'm just sick thinking about how I've missed out on saving 5% of every prior purchase. 
7.) Reusable Bags: Bring your own reusable grocery bags because you get a 5¢ discount for each one you use. For example, if you use 5 bags, you get a 25¢ discount. It doesn't sound like much but it adds up with all your other savings and why not? I usually have to remind the cashier to key/scan in my reusable bag discount.
8.) Target Gift Cards: Keep an eye out for Target gift card deals. For example, this week you can get a $5 Target gift card when you buy 4 Skinny Cow ice cream products. These gift card deals are usually easy to spot via signage next to the corresponding product. You can also learn about gift card deals by reading the Weekly Ads.
This evening I went grocery shopping at Super Target and used 7 of the above mentioned methods, and along with current in-store markdowns, I saved a total of $35.83! I would have saved slightly more had I remembered to print a few more of my manufacturer coupons from :( I know, a savings of almost $36 doesn't sound like much when you compare it to those extremists on TLC who get their groceries for $0, but I'm pretty proud of my savings tonight. 
A great source on Target deals (or any other deal for that matter) is Collin Morgan's blog hip2save, specifically her YouTube channel. It helps to watch Collin's videos because she clearly explains Target's various money saving methods and you can see her put the methods into practice as she shops the aisles of an actual Target store. The videos are perfect tools for visual learners like myself!

There are more methods to save money when shopping at Target but these are just 8 of the ones I've been using, and I hope they will help you save a buck or 2! Hardcore Target savers: feel free to add your 2¢, clarify, or correct my information. 

Happy Saving!
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*This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Grady & Wren: 2 Years


Grady's Stats: 22 lbs 10 oz / 31 1/2 inches
Normal Growth Chart: 2nd percentile for weight, 3rd percentile for height

Wren's Stats: 24 lbs 12 oz /  33 1/2 inches
Normal Growth Chart: 24th percentile for weight, 25th percentile for height

Grady's Clothing & Diaper Size: 18-24 month sleepers and 12-18 month shirts/pants; Size 4 diapers. 

Wren's Clothing & Diaper Size: 18-24 month sleepers and 18-24 month/2T shirts/dresses/pants; Size 4 diapers. 

Special Outings: In April we started going to a Mommy & Me playgroup with toddler/preschool friends at church on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month. On May 1, 2014, Daddy and I both picked you up from MDO and we all went to discover the playground at Martin Nature Park. We went back on May 10, 2014, to play on the playground again and decided to explore the rest of the park by taking a hike through the trails.

Milestones: Grady, you had your first haircut on March 28, 2014. You handled it exceedingly better than your dad and I expected you to. We have the hairdresser's bubbles to thank for that.

The following is a list of common toddler skills that you are both doing now:
-You speak countless single words and learn new words daily
-You can use a fork and spoon (not super efficiently)
-You can run (and sometimes trip on invisible speed bumps whilst running and I'm ashamed to admit that your dad and I find this hilarious)
-You can sing & dance (mainly to the music of Frozen or "Happy")
-You can throw a ball (Wren, you have a pretty good arm on you)
-You hold, hug, kiss, & feed baby dolls/plush bunnies (it's the sweetest thing to see you nurture your babies)
-You can navigate steps & stairs
-You can follow two-step requests
-You can identify & name several body parts
-You can imitate others' behavior (this is very entertaining)
-You are starting to use two to three-word phrases
-You can identify many animals and imitate the sound they make
-You know several numbers and try to count
-You know a few colors and can correctly identify them

Grady, you have 16 teeth (8 bottom teeth and 8 top teeth). These days, I often see you with your fingers all the way in the back of your mouth just slobbering away which makes me think your are working on your 2 year molars. Wren, you have a total of 15 (almost 16) teeth (8 top teeth and almost 8 bottom teeth).

My Thoughts: I've done a lot of reflecting over the past several days, mainly because we celebrated Mother's Day last weekend. This was my 3rd Mother's day as a mama and it was quite emotional for me. For various reasons, I had to choke back the tears several times through out the day. Reason 1 was due to reading my blog post from 3 years ago regarding Mother's Day and how it was bittersweet for me as a "mommy-in-waiting." I am still in disbelief that I actually get to celebrate this holiday as a mother now and it truly does make my heart rejoice. Reason 2 was due to witnessing a precious family at church dedicate their three adopted children to the Lord and reciting Hannah's prayer as a congregation over all the children being dedicated. The Lord gave me Hannah's story early in 2010 and I clung to it while I was waiting to become a mama.
Reason 3 was remembering the many mother's I know who have lost children, my heart breaks for them and the reality that they will never see their children on this Earth again. Reason 4 was recalling my 1st Mother's Day having preemies in the NICU and trying to recover from the physical and emotional trauma that had occurred just 6 days prior on your birth day. Reason 5 was because you didn't want much of anything to do with me this Mother's Day. From the minute you woke up, all you wanted was your daddy. Because I was emotional already (see reasons 1-4), I took this more personally than I normally would. I tried all day to get a picture with you but you wanted none of it. In the evening we finally bribed you with bubbles at Oma & PawPaw's house and we were barely able to snap an acceptable picture together. At bedtime on Mother's Day evening you both finally wanted ME. With only your night light on, I rocked you together as your daddy kneeled close by and we sang our nightly lullabies. As I sang the last phrase of "Baby Mine" (but you're so precious to me // sweet as can be // baby of mine), I could no longer hold back my tears and the floodgates swung wide open. It was such a precious moment and my heart was bursting because I was holding the greatest Mother's Day gifts I could ever receive. You responded to my tears so sweetly, I don't think you had ever seen me cry like that before. As I laid you down in your cribs, through my tears, I whispered to each of you separately, "Mama wanted you so badly, I love you so much." Motherhood is so difficult but SO rewarding.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude that the Lord allowed me to be your mother.

These days our routine looks roughly like this (with the exception of your day at MDO):
8:00-8:30am Wake up
8:45am Eat Breakfast
12:00pm Eat Lunch
12:30am-2:00pm Nap (sometimes longer)
5:00pm Eat Dinner
7:30pm Bedtime

Favorites: Wren, your favorites are accessories (necklaces, bracelets, bows, & shoes), Frozen (the movie and the soundtrack), watching Sesame Street, your plush and/or figurine Elmo, Cookie Monster & Abby Cadabby, baby dolls, your paci (which you only have at nap time & bed time), your new jump & slide bounce house, and your red cozy coupe, aka car, intended for Grady.
Grady, your favorites are your plush bunnies, toy kitchen utensils, Frozen (the movie and the soundtrack), watching Sesame Street, your new jump & slide bounce house, and your pink cozy coupe, aka car, intended for Wren.

Dislikes:  SHARING, getting your nose cleaned out, & having shampoo rinsed out of your hair.

Food: You mainly eat peanut butter sandwiches (only Grady now), regular sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, waffles, healthy toddler muffins, bananas, Greek yogurt, applesauce, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, pizza, sweet potatoes, tortillas, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, apples (sometimes), and grapes (only Grady). You still also eat pureed fruit and veggie pouches because you won't eat whole veggies. You drink 2% milk and water.

An Insta-recap of life from 18 months on...

I caught Sissy helping decorate the Christmas tree while daddy looked on...

Bubba decided to help too...

Cute train passengers at Devon's Saturdays with Santa...

All aboard!

Downtown family fun at Devon...

Checking out the snow...

Wren's reaction to the snow was, "Oooooh!!"

Watching Bubble Guppies with Daddy...

The Winter Olympics inspired a little indoor bobsledding...

Anxiously waiting on chocolate chip cookies to bake...

Serious post-nap hair...

Precious Christmas creations made at MDO...

2013 Digital Christmas card (we didn't mail any)

Mama+bubba grocery store date...

CRBC Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 2013

Meeting Santa on Christmas morning...

Grocery shopping with Paddington Bear...

Playing with their Christmas present...

Racing around Home Depot...

Vroom vroom!

Sweet petite pigtails...

They just couldn't be any cuter!

Happiness is a warm blanket and a stuffed bunny.
My sweet little Linus van Pelt...

Smiles despite having to do breathing treatments...

Naps on Grammy & Granddad...

Taste testing while "cooking" is a must...


Multitasking like a true woman...

Frozen sing-alongs via YouTube...

After breakfast one morning, this little bird grabbed her phone,
keys, & purse and said, "Bye!" Just like mama!

One of Wren's favorite necklaces...

Playing in Grammy & Granddad's backyard...

Playing on the walker with PawPaw...

Grady & Mama singing "Happy!"

Trying to ship her brother to Abu Dhabi...

These two commandeered our neighbor's cozy coupe
and crammed in it for a joy ride...

Reunited after a Mama+Grady Target date...

Dying Easter eggs for the first time...

Easter egg hunting at Grammy & Granddad's house...

Checking out their Easter goodies...

Easter 2014

The oldest and youngest members of the family sweetly swinging...

Mama+Wren date at the park...

Sickie Sis checking bunny's temp...

Not amused that he caught Sister's strep...

Ms. Social Butterfly...she smiles, waves, and says, "Hi"
to fellow grocery store shoppers...

Just swinging with his bunnies...

Bubbles on Oma & PawPaw's porch!

The post-zoo meltdown and car nap...

Birthday chairs! 
(After this pic was taken, they switched chairs. It seems the
chair swap will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.)

Mama was busted hiding out in her room after waking up from a Sunday nap...

The birthday boy & girl bouncing & sliding...

Time is flying by way too fast!!

Driving around the garage...

Hand delivering Mother's Day flowers to Oma...

Standing watch with Oma in the castle tower...

Sweet moments with Grammy on Mother's Day...

Mother's Day 2014

My sweet Grady Guy prefers his sister's pink cozy coupe, her pink chair, 
and nurtures her baby dolls. But he still loves his trucks and is all boy...

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