Jan 21, 2019

Instant Pot Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili

I love my Instant Pot! It has made my life so much easier on weeknights and for meal prep. This year we go in two different directions on Monday nights and we aren't all home until 8 pm. My kids cannot wait that long for dinner so I make Monday night's dinner every weekend in my Instant Pot and divide it up to reheat at the dance studio or home.

Makes my life so much easier.

For the first six months of using it, I stuck to tried and true recipes and didn't change a thing. The pot is intimidating at first. But as I got more comfortable, I started making changes subbing out ingredients and then creating my own meals.

This chili is one of our family favorites and I used to make it in the Crock Pot. I still could but it's nice being done in two hours instead of 10 and I don't have to soak the beans overnight. It's creamy and with just the right heat.

Do you know how to pick a jalapeno in the store? The ones that are bright green with no brown lines are the mild ones. The darker green with brown lines are spicier. For this chili I like to get one milder jalapenos and two spicy jalapenos so I have all the flavor of jalapenos without too much heat. Go with your spice tolerance when choosing your jalapenos.

1. I have used 8 oz of cream cheese instead of 4 with only regrets to my waist line.
2. Chicken breasts can be used but I prefer thighs.
3. Use HP if you don't have a soup setting
4. If you're a real spice whip cut back on the jalapenos and cayenne pepper.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili

1 pound great northern beans - sorted and rinsed
3 bone in skinless chicken thighs -fresh or frozen
5 cups chicken broth (4 if you prefer thicker chili)
15 oz diced tomatoes with green chilies
3 minced jalapenos
1 small chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1T chili powder
1 t cumin
1 cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 can corn - drained
4 oz cream cheese

1. Put the first 12 ingredients into the Instant Pot and stir. Closed lid and turn value to closed.
2. Select bean/chili setting and set to 45 mins.
3. When the timer goes off allow the pot to natural release.
4. Open value to make sure all the pressure is out of the pot and open.
5. Remove chicken and shred.
6. Using an immersion blender give the chili a few pulses to mash the beans.
7. Add corn, cream cheese, and chicken. Stir and melt cheese and serve.

Nov 30, 2017

Hormel Gatherings® Party Tray - Delicious Snacking

It's that time of year when life gets busy and there are several parties to attend. It feels overwhelming at times with all the work, school, and family activities. But you can make life a little easier by letting someone else do the work for you. I received free product in exchange for my honest review of Hormel Gatherings® Party Tray. A  Hormel Gatherings® Party Tray just might be the answer to making your life easier and tastier this holiday season.  The trays have meat, cheese, crackers, and possibly olives depending on the type you purchase.

We tried the Hormel Gatherings® Party Tray on Thanksgiving. Our family likes to eat the turkey dinner closer to dinner time than lunch. Which means we need something substantial as a snack around lunchtime. But who wants to cook snacks when you're busy cooking for the main meal? Not me, I want something easy. I bought a salami, pepperoni, cheese, and crackers tray which was perfect to have as our lunch. No need to slice or chop, all the work was done for me. A recipe for perfect snacking. It took 2 minutes to set up the tray and everyone loved it. Talk about a win. 

I love that the trays have built in containers for the cheese, crackers, and meat. No need to use your own tray and have another dish to wash, this one works perfectly. Plus if there is any food left over the lid pops right back on so there's no need to pack away any leftovers. My kids devoured it, so we didn't have a single cracker left. 

With three kids in school the holiday parties are very close together this time of year. I'll be honest, normally I'm the mom who volunteers for paper goods or rolls. Now I can add party tray to the list because it's easy, affordable, and delicious. I love that I can look like a mom who went the extra mile, without actually going the extra mile. A pre-made snack that the kids love will make me a winner for my kids, and their teachers. 

If you're looking for something to bring to a party or potluck, Hormel Gatherings® Party Trays will be a huge hit. You can buy them at your local grocery store. Check Hormel's website to find a retailer near you. And follow them on Pinterest, Facebook, and Youtube and learn about new products and get get ideas for entertaining. 

Oct 24, 2017

Why are Kids Being Bullied at a Younger Age

Due to a recent bullying incident with my daughter, I've been reading about bulling and how to handle it. One thing that struck me was that every article said that bullying is on the rise, especially among girls.

I understand that being a mean girl is one way to increase your popularity in middle and high school. Also that social media makes bullying easily accessible. I just don't understand why our girls are being so mean at a young age. How is it possible that bullying is so common in elementary schools that the anti-bullying programs begin in Kindergarten?

What's changed?

When we were kids we were free range kids before that was even a thing. Learning to ride a bike was a rite of passage. Once you could ride a bike you had more freedom to roam the neighborhood unsupervised. Of course we made sure to return home when the street lights turned on. And friends? We played with the kids that were around. Who remembers knocking on doors looking for kids who could come out and play?

Today my kids don't play with other kids unless the parents have arranged for a playdate. Which really requires the moms to friends. Or at the very least friendly.

Which makes me wonder if that's not part of the problem with our girls. Our kids don't just play with anyone they encounter in the neighborhood. There’s no knocking on doors until you find a friend or just heading to the park and playing with whoever was there. They’re only playing with a select few kids.

Before our kids start school their friends are our friends' kids. Then they go to school and they make their own friends at school but for the most part they only play with the kids outside of school when we are friends with the mom.

And I am as guilty as the next person. I work at my kids’ school and I have to be careful around parents outside of school. Teacher moms are reminded often that we are teachers first and parents second. Kinda hard to make connections with that hanging over your head.

I have no answers to this problem. I don’t even know if my theory is even a tiny part of the problem. It’s just something on my mind as I help my daughter through this horrendous stage of life.

I do know that as a mom I feel so helpless and all I want to do is wave a magic wand and make everything ok. Anyone have a magic wand I can borrow?

Jun 30, 2017

Summer Journals - How to work on Writing Skills over the Summer

Blame the teacher in me, but I just can't let my kids go through a whole summer without writing. Reading is easy for my kids since they all like to read but writing is another story.

Enter summer journals.

This is our second summer making journals and I'm getting the same push back this summer from my kids. Whining, complaining, making me want to scream at them.

You know, they're being kids.

I finally got a brilliant idea and pulled out last years journals for them to look through. And to quote my daughter Isabella "oh now I get it, we are recording our memories so we will know what we did during the summer."

Big spender with my 10 cent notebooks I stock up on at the beginning of the year.

Yes, and working on writing all summer long.

Here's how our journals work. I print out pictures of what we are doing that week. I glue the pictures to the top of the page and they write about it. Some days we are just hanging around the house and I don't have the kids journal on those days. But usually we do something worth printing a picture over a few times a week. Sometimes the picture isn't something special but it's a picture of the cool bug they caught at the park.

They aren't writing everyday and that's OK with me. But they are writing 3-4 times a week and they will have a great memento of their summers to look back on one day.

This was an entry from Molly's journal last year after finishing Kindergarten.

"When we went tubing we saw a ??? and we had fun"

And this her first journal entry this summer after finishing 1st grade.

I love seeing her growth! She was pretty amazed too. I'm hoping today was a turning point for my kids and they'll stop fighting me on these journals. Either way, we are doing them so they might as well have a happy heart about it.

How do you encourage summer reading with your kids?

Jun 10, 2017

Food Lover and Nexium 24HR Relief

My husband jokes that I don't have a culinary style, I just like food. In fact I've been known to plan the next meal while eating the current meal. It's ok, I usually eat healthy and exercise so I'm not in any trouble with my love of food. Yet.

But as I get older my favorite foods no longer love me back quite like they did in the past. The delicious Tex-Mex that I love with all my heart, now turns into heartburn.  So does almost anything fried, buttery, or spicy.

Not cool food, what did I ever do to you?

Thankfully I don't have to live in pain. I can take Nexium 24HR for heartburn relief. This blog post is sponsored from Smily360 in exchange for my honest review. I received a promotional kit in exchange for my review, all opinions are mine.

The perfect grill set for camping!

Nexium 24HR treats frequent heartburn and can take 1-4 days for full effect. You only take one pill every 24 hours, which is great when you know you're having a weekend filled with trigger foods. With Nexium 24HR, you can treat your heartburn before you feel the pain. Nexium 24HR is only approved for adults over 18.

Yesterday was the last day of school and we went to our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant to celebrate. Here in Cary, NC it's hard to find spicy salsa and where we went the salsa is good and spicy. The queso has a little kick too. I love it, and my kids do too.

In the summer we are all about grilling out on the weekends. It's too hot to cook indoors and food just tastes better off the grill. Tonight we are having cheeseburgers with all the fixings. I just love a homemade cheeseburger loaded with toppings. And nothing says summer quite like grilled corn on the cob.

This meal needed a big grill. 

Mmmm jalapeno popper stuffed burger, so tasty. 

Just a plain cheeseburger for this young man though. 

On Sunday our pool is having a summer kick off party with a BBQ potluck. I love potlucks since you can take several sample sizes of different foods. I always bring spicy beans to potlucks. My family loves them and since they cook in a Crock Pot it's an easy no fuss side dish.

After dinner, they are stuffed to the gills. 

We had a great weekend kicking off the beginning of summer. Thanks to Nexium 24HR, I didn't feel any pain from my indulgent weekend. You can learn more about Nexium 24HR here so you can #SeeHeartburnDifferently

I received these products for free from Smily360 in exchange for my honest review. You can join Smily360 at www.smiley360.com. 

May 11, 2017

Buy P&G at Costco

I love Costco! It is the greatest store. You can buy food, clothes, and cleaning supplies all in one trip. On my last trip I bought my kids bathing suits, food, and picked up cleaning supplies. I love that I can buy almost anything I need in one place. Plus when you're a twin mom like myself the lure of the double child seat is almost enough to make you want to shop there.

Another reason why I love Costco is that it's one of the few stores my kids enjoy. For them the lure is the samples, checking out the middle section where the toys are located, and taking home a box to color and use in whatever imaginary game they are playing.

Costco is the perfect place to stock up on cleaning supplies. A family of five goes through items like laundry detergent and dish detergent fast. It's more practical for me to buy these items in bulk so I'm not constantly running to the store. Thankfully my favorite P&G products are sold at Costco.

I have three children and I do about 6 loads of laundry a week. Even more laundry in the winter is just another reason to love summer.  There's nothing worse than needing to do laundry and being out of detergent, which is why I like to buy it in bulk. I'm better off buying it once every other month than buying small bottles more often. Plus you save money when you buy it in bulk. I love using Gain on my kids' clothes, the stains come out and it makes their clothes smell fresh.  

I also buy dish detergent and dish soap at Costco. I love the convenience of having large containers that don't run out very often. That bottle of Dawn will last for months in my house. It's too big for my counter so I just refill a smaller bottle for everyday use. 

Now the best part about this particular shopping trip is that all four items where on sale. This is the wonderful sign you want to see when shopping at Costco. 

Who doesn't like saving even more money? You're already buying these items at a great price but when there's a coupon the savings are even better. You might think that buying that many Swiffers at once is excessive but it's not. With 3 kids we need to clean the floors everyday. I know it sounds excessive but we essentially live in the woods and our floors take a hit from all the pine tree debris my kids track in.

Make your life a little easier and shop for your favorite P&G supplies at Costco. And follow Proctor and Gamble on Twitter and Facebook.

I received these products for free from Smily360 in exchange for my honest review. You can join Smily360 at www.smiley360.com. 

Apr 11, 2017

Disadvantages to Having 3 Kids

I have three kids. I think that's a fairly normal amount until I see the look of horror on stranger's faces when I tell them I have 3 kids. It might be the fact that I had three kids in 21 months more than the actual number of kids I have, Maybe.


Occasionally I think about what it would be like to only have two kids, the culturally accepted amount of kids. It occurs to me occasionally that there are some disadvantages to having three kids.

Like when

Kids eat free
I love when restaurants have a kids eat free night. Saving money is one of my favorite things to do. But when you have three kids only two meals are free. I get it, it's a one for one kind of thing but it still sucks. Especially since my kids are getting to an age where they can't share kid's meals anymore.

Did you know that the goal for many kids is to sit in the back corner of the elevator? And that there are only two back corners? This is a major source of annoyance for me in every single elevator we get into.

Hotel Rooms
Ahh the pain of the pull out couch. Your hotel room says it sleeps up to 6 but that means two suckers are on the fold out couch. Or in the case of a family of 5 one sucker. No one wants the fold out couch, no one. My poor son, he always gets the couch since the girls don't want to share a bed with him.

Amusement Rides
We just went to Great Wolf Lodge, and we had the best time. But with an odd number of kids we couldn't ride all together on one ride and on the others someone always was alone. Same goes for roller coasters and Disney.

I'm not sure who decided that restaurants should have very few tables that seat more than 4 people. One of our favorite restaurants has exaclty one table that seats more than 4 people. Which means we cram into a small table or try to move tables, not easily done when it's crowded. And don't even get me started when we see a family of 3 sitting at that one table.

Are these things the end of the world? No, they don't even blip on my radar most of the time. But I had some time on my hands today with only two kids and my trip to the store was much easier. Of course later when we picked up my third child from her after school club all was right with the world again.

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