Favorite Thing Friday: Best Ever Chicken and Rice Soup!

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My crock pot and I continue to be the best of friends. With the weather finally getting colder, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as some comfort food to warm up my evening.

As I write this, the heavenly smell of Chicken and Rice soup is wafting through my house. I found the recipe on Pinterest and it has quickly turned into one of my favorite meals.  It’s a snap to make – all it takes is about 15 minutes to chop a few veggies and throw them into the pot along with chicken, rice, broth, and a few seasonings.

Follow the pin for the recipe:

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Click the image for the recipe.

 

I only slightly modified the recipe. It calls for a 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes, but I only put in a pinch. The recipe calls for 4 cups of broth, but I’ve found adding an extra 1/2 cup keeps it from getting too thick. I made things easier on myself by buying pre-sliced carrots and I had my husband chop the onion, (I did not feel like fighting “onion tears” before having to go to work!).

If you’re in the mood for some warm and cozy food, this might be something worth trying!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Easy Crock Pot Recipes

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I am not a cook, but recent recipe finds on Pinterest have allowed me to serve hot and yummy meals. The best part is all of them require very little effort.

For years, my crock pot sat useless on my counter. This is mainly because everything that came out of it sucked. I had pretty much given up on the thing, until Pinterest came to the rescue. After finding a number of crock pot recipes in the Food & Drink section, I followed the image links and read what people had to say about each recipe. Thanks to blogs and comment sections, I learned what was worth trying and what to leave alone. Plus, I learned a lot about how to cook in a crock pot.

As someone with a stressful, full-time job, the ability to toss a few things in a pot and come home to a warm meal is pure gold. Having tested almost a dozen recipes, these are my Top 5 favorite crock pot recipes (so far).

1. Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

Four ingredients are all you need for this recipe. It’s so simple, it’s almost unbelievable how good it tastes!

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Click on the image for the recipe!

I highly recommend using Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.

2. Crock Pot Italian Chicken

Follow the recipe on the pin description, rather than the link. I’ve made this a few times and it’s fantastic every single time. The only tricky part is making sure the cream cheese is soft enough to blend into the other ingredients, (microwaving it is okay!).

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Click on the image to see the pin.

Rich and creamy, this simple meal is tasty over pasta or rice.

3. Slow Cooker Red Beans and Sausage

I was intrigued by using sausage in a chili-esque dish instead of beef or chicken. Sausage offers a new take on an old dish and I really like it!

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Click on the image for the recipe.

I made a few adjustments to this recipe in that I cut down the amount of beans and added chili flavored tomatoes instead of garlic roasted. The recipe calls to serve it over rice, but I decided to serve it with soft tortillas instead.  This chili wraps up nicely into a little burrito.

4. Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I will never go back to boxed Mac ‘n Cheese after trying this recipe. What’s not to love about creamy, tasty, and easy?!

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Click on the image for the recipe.

The only modification I made was adding chunks of cooked kielbasa sausage. The result is a hearty, home-cooked meal.

5. Crock Pot Chicken and Potatoes

Simple, simple, simple! Three ingredients and some water pulls together a filling and flavorful meal.

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Click on the image for the recipe.

I used baby red potatoes as they are my favorite. I also adjusted the layering suggested in the recipe. To keep the chicken moist, I added a bit more water and buried the chicken within the potatoes instead of on top.

Happy eating!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Amish Friendship Bread

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Over the last 40 days (or so) I’ve been caught up in a baking frenzy that has swept my workplace: Amish Friendship Bread.  It all started when a colleague brought a freshly baked loaf of sweet bread and told us all to help ourselves.  I am already a nut for Amish baked goods after years of going to an Amish farm market in Indiana, (every year I head to Indy to visit my dad in the summer), so I dug right in!  I can’t even begin to say how excited I was to nosh on Amish bread well before my usual August binge.  It was so good, I asked if she would be willing to share the recipe so I could make it for myself.  Instead of writing it out for me, she handed over a large ziplock bag filled with pale goo and piece of paper with directions on what to do with my “starter.”

For the next six days, that goo sat on my counter and bubbled.  In between mushing the goo each day, I have to admit I was pretty fascinated with watching the yeast ferment.  On the sixth day, I got to add some ingredients and mush the bag some more until Day 10 or baking day arrived.

Baking day is where the real message of Amish Friendship bread comes through loud and clear. During the process, four cups of batter are pulled out and bagged for new starters.  These starters are then distributed to friends, family, neighbors, etc., while one is kept for yourself.  This creates an immediate connection with everyone in the circle as the next bake day arrives.  As the starter chain grows, the community grows and so does the sense of doing something meaningful.  Over the course of four batches, I realized I wasn’t baking alone and that created an instant kinship with every single person who had received a starter, including the people before and after my link in the chain. There is something magical and very warm about doing the same thing at the same time as those in my inner circle and beyond.  Every ten days that feeling comes back when I bake the next batch.

Better still, each batch yields two loaves of bread.  The sharing doesn’t end with starters!  It only continues as one loaf stays at home and the other is shared with others.  The office at work has been loaded with yummy loaves and muffins for weeks, while my grandparents always have a fresh loaf on their counter thanks to the baking efforts of me and my sister.

Batch #4 of Amish Friendship Bread

This experience has been very rewarding and tasty, so I thought I’d pass it along to my friends in the blogosphere.  The recipe for the starter is usually kept under wraps in order to keep the spirit of sharing alive, but I managed to find a starter recipe that matches up with the baking directions I received for my bread.  If you’re interested in starting an Amish Friendship Bread chain, go here for starter and baking recipes.

May we all be inspired to strengthen the bonds of friendship and keep strong the tradition of sharing.

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c.b. 2012

The Bells Have Spoken

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At precisely 6:45 p.m. on November 12, 2011, the Christmas season officially arrived in my home. I heard the Hershey kisses bells ring in the season with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and I broke out into a huge grin. I love this commercial!! It’s so cute!  I look forward to it every year and I fully intend on seeing it at least fifty times before Christmas actually comes.

The timing couldn’t have been better.  Earlier that day, I did my first round of Christmas shopping. I’m keeping things pretty simple this year as I do most years.  I love the holidays, but hate the hoopla so I tend to buy a few small gifts for those I love.  Like most things in my life, the gifts I give have to mean something or it feels like a lost cause.  I’d rather spend $10 on a gift that speaks personally to someone than spend $100 on something that will be obsolete in five minutes.

My husband and I always host the family Christmas party at our house on Christmas Eve.  After the bells sang, we started planning the games and food.  It’s tradition to play Christmas Bingo combined with a gift swap, open Christmas poppers, and hide the Christmas pickle, but this year we decided to add holiday Mad Libs.  For food, I’m going to make fudge and Hershey kisses peanut butter blossoms (of course!) and my husband is going to make a couple batches of Shepherd’s pie for everyone.  He’s been perfecting his recipe all year! It’s far from a traditional feast, but we like to break the rules.

Starting next week, the Christmas playlist on my iPod is going to get overhauled with new music. Yes, I’m one of those people that loves Christmas music, but I am careful not to annoy other people with it.  Ah, the miracle of personal music players! I can’t wait for Burl Ives, Josh Groban, and Narada to wrap me in holiday bliss.

I don’t need a mall, sales, or shiny wrapping paper to get me in the mood.  Just some ringing chocolate bells and the warmth of the season fills me with cheer.

When do you embrace the holidays?  (Or are you a Grinch?  That’s okay, too!)

c.b. 2011

Paying it Forward . . . Again!

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After three full months in the blogosphere, I can’t help but be thankful for every reader that visits my blog.  At the same time, I am just as grateful to have found a wonderful community of bloggers that offer an immense amount of insight and inspiration.  Back in June I posted some of my favorite links, but the list has since grown.  It’s time to share a few more blogs that deserve the spotlight!

Random Acts of Writing [+art]

Stunning photography and art meet beautiful quotations with a dash of philosophical contemplation. Easily one of my favorite blogs because there is always so much inspiration not only for writing, but for life in general.

Moonlight Baker

I’m not much of a cook, but I love this blog!  Recently, she posted a recipe for Nutella Cheesecake Bars that was so easy to follow even I could make them.  They were absolutely divine and I suspect all of her recipes are just as delicious.  This site boasts highly original recipes for everything from breakfast to desert, making it well worth the visit to see what’s cooking!

Joss Burnel – The Crowing Crone

Count on Joss to highlight the simple pleasures of life with beautiful photographs of nature and thoughtful posts on the little things that matter most.  I look forward to new posts as they offer a nice bit of serenity when I need it most.

The Conscious Classroom

A wonderful site that offers interesting and unconventional tools for teachers.  This may be a bit of a shameless plug, but I do contribute to this site from time to time.  😉  If you are an educator or a parent looking for techniques and inspiration for engaging students in the act of learning, this is a good place to find some new ideas.

W. Chaser

The process of writing is never easy as real life, the inner critic, and frustration threaten to rob us of our creativity.  W. Chaser writes about these struggles and the little victories that make writing a truly rewarding craft.  The honesty and humor of this blog is what keeps me coming back for more.

Thinking of Rob

Everyone has a guilty pleasure and this is mine.  😀  In a previous post, I admitted that I am one of those Twilight people, (A Bookshelf of Organized Chaos). Well,  I am also a Robert Pattinson fan. Yup, I’ve seen every one of his movies and loved them!  Thinking of Rob is one of the best fan sites I’ve ever encountered in the mania that surrounds Twilight.  Not only do they post the best photos, fan art, and news, but they are very respectful of Rob as a person, (no tabloid stuff, negativity is not tolerated, and rumors are not proliferated).  They keep things very professional and I have so much respect for what they do and how they do it.  With Breaking Dawn: Part I hitting theaters in a few months, this is the site to keep bookmarked for all the latest news!

Happy Reading!

c.b. 2011