5 Minute Southwest Chicken Salad

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias inc, and it's advertiser, all thoughts and opinions are my own. #WhatsYourRanch #CollectiveBias

With Derek's new job, my desire to make elaborate dinners each night has decreased ten fold. With his old job I knew he would be getting off of work promptly at 4pm, and we lived less than a mile from his office which meant he was home around 4:08. Life was so predictable and easy. Now that he's on salary, and we live 5 miles away from his office, and his schedule varies by the day, making dinner just seems to fall at the bottom of my things to do, especially on nights when it's close to 6pm and the kids are going bonkers. I've learned to have an arsenal of dinners that can be prepared in minutes and don't take a thousand ingredients. 

When I was at Kroger last week I saw that Hidden Valley came out with some new dressings and I knew the Sweet Chili flavor would be bomb.com for a southwest chicken salad (spoiler alert: I was right). I've also learned that buying the pre-cooked chicken in the refrigerated section of the grocery store is pretty much the worlds biggest life saver. There is pretty much zero prep aside from opening a bag of lettuce, a container of chicken, two cans, and cutting a tomato. A monkey could do it. So when the weeknights are getting the best of you, and you don't know what to do for dinner, I highly recommend quick and easy salads like this because they're delicious, and you won't spend precious minutes in the kitchen. 

1 8oz bag romaine lettuce
8oz canned corn
1 roma tomato
12oz cooked chicken, cooled and chopped
8oz black beans

Pour all the lettuce into a bowl, and then make a row of corn, followed by a row  of tomatoes, than a row  of the chicken, then a row of the beans. Drizzle the Hidden Valley Sweet Chili Ranch on top. Serve immediately. 

The Best Mac and Cheese (with healthy variations) + GIVEAWAY

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I'm not going to pretend that for one bit this recipe is healthy. Because it definitely isn't. I try not to throw caution to the wind and just go for it every night for dinner, but sometimes you just need a good pasta, cheese ridden, delicious meal, and this is just that. I can say though that this meal is slightly better for you than your typical mac n cheese because I swapped out the normal elbow macaroni for the veggie kind at the grocery store that counts as a serving of veggies per serving of pasta (husband eats it every time and can't tell the difference), and I threw a bag of frozen peas in it too. So there is about two servings of veggies laced within the cheese and whole milk goodness. 

Also, lets talk about the topping on this bad boy for a minute. I just sprinkled some of those ever-so-popular and delicious bread crumbs from Progresso on top, and when they get all brown and slightly crunchy in the oven... It's comfort food heaven in your mouth. We're not big on eating leftovers over here, but we ate this for dinner Saturday night, Sunday night, and then lunch again on Monday. Which is impressive for the family that usually leaves leftovers to die in the fridge for two weeks before they can't take the smell (and lack of dishes in the cabinets), and eventually throws them away. But back to the bread crumbs... they're delicious, and you can easily find them at Publix, (or any grocery store), and there's a coupon, so it's a win win. 

Also, because I love you guys, and because I love bread crumbs, and because most importantly, I love mac n cheese, I'm going to be giving away $15 Paypal Cash to one lucky reader. Enter using the rafflecopter below!

4 cups Dried Macaroni
1 12oz bag Frozen Peas1 whole Egg, Beaten
1/4 cup (1/2 Stick Or 4 Tablespoons) Butter
1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
2-1/2 cups Whole Milk
2 teaspoons (heaping) Dry Mustard, More If Desired
1 pound Cheese, Grated
1/2 teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
1/2 teaspoon Seasoned Salt, More To Taste
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/3 cup Progresso Bread Crumbs


Cook macaroni 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Throw peas in during the last minute. Remove from stove top and drain.
In a small bowl, beat egg.
In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.
Pour in milk, add mustard, salt, pepper, season salt, cayenne pepper, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.
Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.
Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
Add in cheese and stir to melt.
Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with bread crumbs, and bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Em at 9 Months!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Em turns nine months old today. Unless you saw my sleep deprived Instagram post yesterday, then I thought that day had already come to pass. Regardless we've had the best nine months ever. I've been reflecting a lot on the last nine months this past week, and it all just seems so surreal. I remember sitting in my Bishop's office in North Carolina the day I was being induced with Em, and he asked me to teach in Relief Society. He knew all of the problems Em was going to have and prefaced the call to teach with "I know you guys won't be here for a while but...". and my reply was, "Oh, no, we'll be here next Sunday..." I'm sure he thought I was a lunatic, but sure enough, the entire family of four was at church that next Sunday. Granted I figured we would be a family of three making trips to the hospital after church each Sunday, but it all worked out so much better. 

Em had her first doctor appointment in Georgia this last month! We really love our new pediatrician. She's even had a holoprosencephaly baby before, which is kind of an anomaly since large hospitals like Duke only see one/year, so the fact that our pediatrician's office with one working doctor has seen a patient with the same thing before is really awesome. We feel really confident that she has Em's best interests at heart, and that she'll get us to the right specialists when we need to.

Em got weighed and measured for the first time in three months and she's grown so much! She now weighs 16lbs and is 29.5 inches. She's in the 50% for weight, and the 98% for height. I find that so hilarious. Most babies with holoprosencephaly go by the cerebral palsy growth charts since they seem to always be so small, but nope, Em is just beasting it on the normal charts. She's going to beat her brother up one day who spent most of his infancy in the 26% for weight and the 50% for height. 

Another crazy thing! This girl talks! She can be found babbling mama, dada, and baba. She blows my mind all the time. Derek and I have just been bursting at the seems with joy and love for this girl. She just sits around the house smiling all the time, and Derek and I are always saying to her, "how are you soooooooo cute?!" It's that painful, make-your-heart-burst-in-two kind of cuteness. I literally almost die. 

Things to know about Em at 9 Months:
  • She is still eating solids pretty well
  • She slept through the night once this month!
  • She loves sitting in her chair with toys. She can be found there about 50% of her awake hours. 
  • She can sit for about 6 seconds before falling over. A big improvement.
  • Her jaw has finally stopped locking in the open position. 
  • She can say mama, dada, and baba. And a high pitched noise that sounds like hi
  • Jay decided to realize Em's existence this month and gave her lots of hugs and kisses, another improvement from the last 4 months. 

Friday's Five

Friday, May 15, 2015

It's been so long since I've written a Friday's Five post. Probably the most inconsistent thing about my blogging habits. I feel like with the increased amount of sponsored content though, I need to re-inject some true authenticity to this space. Not that I'm not authentic when writing for a sponsor, but I'm sure you guys are getting sick of seeing "this shop has been compensated by..." every single day. The truth is, we've had a lot of financial things come up lately that we just weren't really expecting, and they kind of all seemed to hit right at the same time, and the fact that you all support me enough that I'm able to help counteract those financial blows is seriously amazing. Thank you so, so much, because without you, the reader, I wouldn't be able to do that, and things would be a lot harder than they are, and I just want you guys to always know how grateful I am for your readership!

This week has been so so good though. Jay who has been on nap rebellion for the last month it seems, has taken one everyday this week. Which means I get well needed down time, and he's 10 times sweeter post nap (a trait he gets from me). 

Em has been eating solids a little bit more. We learned that she actually doesn't do too well eating them when she's in her highchair, but when she is sitting on one of our laps, she eats so much better. Maybe the fact that cuddling with daddy is her favorite? 

I think I've entered the five stages of grief about leaving North Carolina. We were so go, go, go, after moving here that I think I was in the denial phase. Then this week I think I blew past anger, entered into bargaining with Derek trying to get him to apply to a job at the Raleigh Airport (but then we'd have to pay back all our relocation money, and then that wouldn't help anything), and then I went through the depression phase where I think I relived every NC memory in the course of a day and balled my eyes out, and now I think I'm at the acceptance part again. That and the fact that realtor.com is open on our computer 24/7 and that this move is pretty much a lot more permanent than my NC desires are particularly willing to admit to at the moment. But Georgia really is amazing, the people are great, and we are grateful to be here. It's just that so much happened to us in NC, it's going to always hold a very large part of my heart. 

On a lighter note, know how they say eventually you'll get so sick of yourself you'll finally start to take real actions about getting healthy? I think I hit that point. I've never been super motivated to be healthy post kids because I was fortunate enough to have the baby weight fly off and I didn't need to do anything to maintain my appearance (I know everyone is hating me right now). Recently I've been having a few health ailments though that have been driving me crazy, and every time I googled how to solve one of my problems, the answer was always "drink water and get plenty of exercise". Gosh I hate that sentence. But I finally went running everyday this week, and I've been more intentional about drinking water, and after a week I really feel so much better. I'm really hoping to make this a permanent thing again. I forgot how much more like "me" I feel when I run regularly. 

So there you have it, money, a napping toddler, an eating baby, the five stages of grief, and exercise are the top five for this week. Such a random collection of thoughts, but such is the nature of the Friday Five right? 

A Lazy Saturday Evening

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and it's advertiser, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. #FlavorYourSummer #Ad

Growing up, I learned two things from my dad (I actually learned a lot more than two things, but for the sake of the post... you get the point), dinner should be easy, and it should be made on the grill. I've been in a dinner rut for the last few weeks and always try to complicate that pesky third meal of the day way too much. With Derek's new job, having every-other-Friday off means we spend way too much of our weekends running around trying to get so much stuff done, that we never really take any time to relax. 

This weekend we decided to get done the most important things on Friday, and spend Saturday together as a family, just relaxing and playing outside all day! It was such a nice pace from our typical go-go-go routine. Friday while we were out we stopped at Walmart to grab a Jack's Pizza so we could throw it on the grill to cook on Saturday, and then we also picked up some new fruit and veggie Outshine Bars for dessert. It was one of those day that was just so perfect and easy. 

Jay is at this fun stage where he just loves playing outside. His favorite game is finding all these pine cones in our yard and putting them in his Tonka truck. He also loves running back and forth from Derek's car to my car. His future track coach is going to love his willingness for suicides.

What do you do to keep dinner easy in the summer? Do you grill? Do you have go to recipes?
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